Drawing Particulate Models

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.

My Research: Unpacking Active Learning

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.

Chemical Thinking Interactives

As part of a two-week Chemistry Modeling Workshop™ in Houston, TX, I had the opportunity to read the 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.

Modeling the Concept of Ionic Bonding

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? 

Modeling and Street Tacos

Show the kids an event. Have them develop a model. Have each kid draw and write about the model and force them to ask themselves if this model can explain the event. As a teacher, first say something nice about it and then look for their misconceptions and use this as a formative assessment. Combine the individual models with others. Slowly build a larger model and constantly ask if this really explains the event.

Isotopes, Nuts, Bolts and Eggs

This is the first isotope activity I have tried where the students can look inside the model that resembled the atom and find information that reinforced what an isotope actually is. Furthermore, the quantitative data forced them to examine beliefs about different types of averages and what the numbers really mean.

Gizmos: An Online Simulation Tool

This week I had the opportunity to attend part 2 of a 3 day PD for Gizmos, courtesy of a district grant working with ExploreLearning. In a room full of middle school science colleagues (half of whom I knew), I was able to glean a ton of great information.