general public

The Hindenburg

Teaching the Hindenburg disaster in the chemistry classroom.

I have always been intrigued by the story of the Hindenburg, the iconic airship that caught fire on May 6, 1937. The accident killed 35 of the 100 passengers and crewmembers on board. As a chemistry teacher, I discuss this from a chemical standpoint and the fact that the airship was filled with hydrogen, a flammable gas, rather than helium, a non-flammable gas, as today’s modern airships are.

Especially JCE: October 2016

October 2016 issue of JCE

National Chemistry Week begins on October 16 this year. It’s a time for celebration, a time to highlight chemistry’s contributions to our lives, a time to spark interest in this particular science. How will you mark the occasion? Participation in community outreach activities, perhaps? Highlighting NCW in your classes?

JCE 93.10 October 2016 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education October 2016

The October 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: exploring the candy–cola soda geyser; peer-led team teaching; investigating students’ reasoning; fostering a student-centered learning environment; chemical education in India; activities to increase interest in chemistry; using a smartphone in the laboratory; food chemistry analysis; organic synthesis; green chemistry in the organic laboratory; materials science experiments; cost-effective laboratory equipment; teaching resources; JCE resources to celebrate National Chemistry Week 2016.

Extension Activity with Isotopes Matter

Isotopes Matter Interactive Periodic Table

After receiving positive feedback from Peter Mahaffy, the IUPAC project co-chair of Isotopes Matter, I decided to add an additional component to the original isotope assignment I posted. The second component of the assignment focuses on the applications of both radioactive and stable isotopes using the interactive IUPAC periodic table.

Time required: 

55-60 minutes for both parts of the extension activity

JCE 93.09 September 2016 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education September 2016

Engaging Student Interest and Inquiry

The September 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: copper chemistry; safety; using brewing to teach chemistry; 3D-printed models; learning using games; open-ended approaches to teaching; innovative methods to teach biochemistry; polymer chemistry; organic synthesis labs; teaching physical chemistry; chemistry field trips.

Big Ideas at ChemEd X

Shultz's JCE article

In the article “Reactions Catalyzed by an Assault on a Favorite Principle”1, Emeric Schultz (who incidentally taught me General Chemistry, was my undergraduate advisor, and is now a dear friend and colleague) argues the following:

“Although I have read and heard about ‘big ideas’ in chemistry, I have never seen a commensurate effort to work toward a high school chemistry program that starts from…big ideas and works down.”

Big Ideas – Missing in Action in the Chemistry Curriculum

Big Ideas

The genesis of this paper started with a request from a former student, Thomas Kuntzleman, now a professor of chemistry. He asked if I would consider submitting my thoughts about ‘big ideas’ in chemistry. In his email he attached a paper that I had written for the Journal of Chemical Education six years earlier1. That article was submitted the year after I retired and was a response to a submission questioning the utility of the Principle of Le Châtelier.  

Tackling Big Ideas


It was the empty terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach at 9:30 at night that really bothered me as I am wading through the stack of papers that I was grading. I had the students do experiments, worksheets, I lectured and there was homework. Some of the students could “do” what I thought was science. They could calculate the answer. They could balance the equation.