Deanna Cullen's blog

Making the Grade


I just finished reading Norb Pienta’s editorial in the June 2014 edition of JCE. He hits on a touchy subject between college chemistry instructors and their students...the grade.

Become a ChemEd X Contributor during BCCE 2014

BCCE 2014

Will you be attending BCCE 2014? There is still time to register! This is one of the best opportunities for high school chemistry teacher professional development. Grand Valley State University BCCE organizers have worked to make this year’s BCCE an affordable and valuable experience for high school level teachers. High school teachers may register at the reduced rate of $210 ($350 for regular attendees). If you are attending, I hope you will consider attending our ChemEd X Workshop. We will provide training to those interested in contributing their ideas with our community of educators. See the workshop abstract below. I hope to see you in August!

Floating Squares

floating squares

I was looking for a new demonstration to initiate a discussion about polarity and related properties to use as part of an exam review. I found a video at ChemEd X (this is part of a ChemEd X subscription). It is entitled “Floating Squares – Hexane and Water” (see note below). I have placed both solutions together before, but I had not added the squares. The demonstration fulfilled my needs. I could have used the original video and muted it if I had not had hexane to demonstrate with.

How do you teach "entropy" to high school students?

I was recently drawn to an article published ASAP in JCE entitled Application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics To Explain the Working of Toys. Erick Castellon wrote the article highlighting the use of three toys that are used to help students develop an understanding of the second law of thermodynamics and entropy by having them observe the working of the toys and the energy transfers that occur while playing with them. I already had two of the toys, the radiometer and the drinking bird. I ordered the stirling engine from the link provided in the supporting information. As I waited for the stirling engine to arrive from Japan (which was only a few days) I attempted to write an activity to guide my students to conceptual understanding as they worked with the toys.

Camp Lessons

Camp Pic

I attended 5th grade camp with my son, Stevie, this week. Camp Miniwanca is a beautiful property between the vastness of Lake Michigan and a much smaller inland Stony Lake. The program is based upon the "experiential learning cycle". Small groups of campers work through a series of challenges. The counselors and chaperones allow the children to struggle, disagree and fail. Of course, success is congratulated and enjoyed. Children choose their own goals for individual challenges, so they have an opportunity to strive for their "best self" and meeting or exceeding whatever goal they have made is celebrated. Children were given many team and individual responsibilities. Every part of the day at camp had a purpose. Stevie is the youngest of my children. I have chaperoned several camps before and I attended a few as a child myself and one as an adult participant. This one was by far the best run camp I have attended. Many camps give lip service to experiential learning, but the thing that I observed at Camp Miniwanca that impressed me was there attentiveness to the entire process of the experiential learning cycle. 

Earth Day 2014

Earth Day

Earth Day is just around the corner. If you are looking for some ideas to highlight environmental issues, the Journal of Chemical Education is offering free access to many articles and activities that you will find interesting. Check them out!