laboratory instruction

JCE 94.06 June 2017 Issue Highlights

JCE June 2017 Cover

Engaging Participation and Promoting Active Learning

The June 2017 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: materials science and nanotechnology laboratories, promoting active learning, catalysis and kinetics, blue bottle reaction, cost-effective instrumentation, resources for teaching, from the archive: anchoring concept content maps.

Especially JCE: June 2017

June 2017 JCE issue

Erica Jacobsen shares highlights from the June 2017 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education that are of special interest to high school chemistry teachers.

Acid, Base, pH and Food Chemistry


I try to examine activities an multiple levels. First on the list, I want to know if my students will be engaged and learn something. Second, how difficult is it for me as a teacher to actually pull it off? One of the most important questions...are the students learning chemistry or just having fun? This is the first year I have attempted the following activity.  tudents were engaged in the real world connection, they asked questions, it transitioned into some chemistry concepts and even some parents got involved. The activity involved acid, bases, pH and food.

Time required: 

An evening of baking (about an hour at home) and a day in class.

Who inspires you?

heating of copper II sulfate

This blog post may be a bit non-traditional, but in this submission I recall a memory from early in my teaching career when my dad (who was an environmental chemist) visited my classroom. The day remains embedded in my memory bank, and had a profound impact on how I view labs - as an opportunity to extend the learning.

Titrations and Microscale Chemistry

Microscale titrations in a well-plate

I tend to enjoy acid base titrations for several reasons.  First, students get to work with burettes, acids, bases and they see a nice "color change" when they reach an endpoint. Many times, students who tend to struggle with pen and paper testing excel at the "hands-on" approach. Titrations also dovetail well with stoichiometry which provides a nice review of information closer to the end of the year.

JCE 94.05 May 2017 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education May 2017 Cover

Lasting Value and High Impact

The May 2017 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: project- and inquiry-based laboratories; measuring value and impact; research on core ideas and clickers; new twists on classic activities; understanding diffraction; acid-base chemistry; teaching informed by technology: flipped learning, biochemistry labs, and scientific computing for chemists; from the archives: chemistry helps feed the world.

Exploring the Diet Coke and Mentos Experiment

Diet Coke and Mentos eruption

I think this experiment provides a fantastic vehicle to involve students of all ages in small, hands-on and exploratory research projects. Like many others, my students and I have investigated various aspects of this interesting fountain.

Chemistry in a Bottle

density bottles

Are you familiar with the dynamic density bottle experiment? This interesting experiment was invented by Lynn Higgins, and is sold by various science supply companies. Two immiscible liquids (usually salt water and isopropyl alcohol) and two different types of plastic pieces are contained within a dynamic density bottle. The plastic pieces display curious floating and sinking behavior when the bottle is shaken. You can find out even more about how a colleague and I have explored the experiment by attending our session within the ChemEd X Conference: Chemistry Education for the Next Generation.

Compiling Student Data

Excel file for compiling student data

To assist in grading the lab results for this and other quantitative labs that we did, I created Excel spreadsheets where the students’ results could be entered. The spreadsheet then did all the required calculations and compared the students’ results to the theoretical value. This made grading the lab reports much quicker and more accurate, flagged incorrect student calculations, allowed a much more complete discussion of the lab results and permitted “what if” questions to be discussed.

Shorten Grading Time with this Stoichiometry Tool

Image of a chemistry themed clock

As many chemistry teachers know, grading lab reports can be a very time-consuming task. For me, the lab report that has required the most time to grade is a stoichiometry lab that I have been doing the past couple years. Though we do at least four “formal” lab reports each year, what makes this one different is that it involves a lot more calculations and subsequent results than any of our other labs. Regardless of how well they organized their report or wrote their conclusions, their results need to be checked for accuracy. This takes time. Even after eventually being able to generally eyeball their work, it still takes more time than I would like. So, this year I finally decided to sit down and generate a tool for me to expedite this process—the stoichiometry calculator.