Living at the macroscopic level, it’s no surprise that understanding and effectively communicating chemistry concepts can often be a challenging endeavor. Attempting to rationalize our observations through particle-level interpretations requires us to think in less intuitive ways that often create a cognitive barrier for our students. And for good reason.
Particulate diagrams are all the rage in chemical education. Learn simple tricks to create your own!
I have been using magnets of elements and subatomic particles for some time to help my students visualize what is happening at the particle level of chemistry. I now have more tools to use and I hope you follow me and explore what we can do with them to help our students.
With few materials available to complete wet labs in my school, I have to be creative with covering lab concepts in my AP chemistry course. I was looking for a way to make sure my students were getting the idea of the macroscopic changes that take place in a galvanic cell without necessarily being able to do the wet lab. The particulate model that is part of the Energizer Lab inspired me to write an end of unit assignment for my students using Stop Motion video apps.
Light is a challenging topic in chemistry. In this article, I share an outline of how I approach the content related to interactions between matter and light using activities, a simulation, demonstrations and whiteboards.
Embracing the idea that students already create an image, create an idea, of what is happening when they observe a demonstration, lab or activity. The goal is to have the students make that model more concrete through drawing it.
Does flipping the classroom actually enhance students’ learning, above and beyond just incorporating collaborative activities into classroom instruction? John Moore, one of the chemistry professors at my university, the University of Wisconsin - Madison approached me with this question. We ended up conducting a research study on one of his chemistry courses.
As part of a two-week Chemistry Modeling Workshop™ in Houston, TX, I had the opportunity to read the Journal of Chemical Education article “When Atoms Want” by Vicente Talanquer of the University of Arizona. I researched Dr. Talanquer and discovered he created a collection of simulations called Chemical Thinking Interactives (CTI). These digital tools illustrate many chemistry topics with a focus on the particulate nature of matter.
When describing abstract concepts like chemical bonding, it always seems to feel far too easy for both teachers and students to resort to the “wants” and “needs” of atoms. After all, we understand what it means to want, need, or like something, so it often feels appropriate (and easier) to use a relatable metaphor or subtly anthropomorphize these atoms to accommodate our students’ current reasoning abilities. While predicting the types of bonds that will form and the general idea behind how atoms bond can be answered correctly using such relatable phrases or ideas, the elephant in the room still in remains—do our students really understand why these atoms bond?