high school chemistry

Creating an Organic Chemistry Reaction Pathways Flowchart as a Unit Summary

Student generated reaction pathways flowchart

For a recent unit on organic chemistry for my IB students, I tried something new. I gave them a handout with a list of organic compounds (by class/functional group) and a list of mechanisms and reaction types. Their task (in small groups), using either butcher paper or a large whiteboard, was to create a flow chart of reaction pathways.

Time required: 

30-45 minutes

Chemical Connections to Climate Change

carbon dioxide absorbing IR light

It is becoming increasingly important for citizens to understand various concepts related to climate change and global warming. This post describes several chemical concepts that are pertinent to these issues, in the hopes that teachers of science and chemistry can introduce the topic of climate change into their classrooms and everyday discussions.

The Case of the Barking Dog

hydrogen test

To grasp the concept of oxidation and reduction reactions, I have my high school students write half reactions to show the loss and gain of electrons by the substances being oxidized and reduced. To help with this concept, I developed a quick lab activity involving the reaction between magnesium metal and dilute hydrochloric acid, which in turn led to the students collecting the hydrogen gas and then testing for its presence.

Time required: 

50 minutes

Building Models of Isomers

organic model kit

Students will build models of isomers while the instructor walks around from station to station to critique the models. If the model is incorrect, the students rebuild until they get it right. The paper that accompanies this assignment is very easy to grade. 

Time required: 

one 50 minute class

Misconceptions and Struggles with Double Displacement reactions and dissolving...

double displacement

Looking over my student's papers, there may have been more misconceptions created because of the way I planned the curriculum. In all of the experiments students can see and observe that not all of the crystals or material dissolves yet the water starts to conduct. In their minds there is evidence that they believe either something DOES dissolve or it does NOT. Clearly, partial dissolving is initially too much to consider.

Chemical Mystery #9: Liquid Nitrogen vs. Dry Ice

Bucket launch

A 2L soda pop bottle is filled about one-third full with either liquid nitrogen or solid carbon dioxide (dry ice) and water. The bottle is sealed and a plastic bucket is placed on top. Do you think the liquid nitrogen or dry ice and water will make the bucket go higher? Can you explain the results using chemistry?