Acid Base Speed Dating

The unit of acids and bases is difficult for most students in Advanced Placement Chemistry. The variety of various calculations can be overwhelming. The Acid Base Speed Dating Activity engages students in completing a series of problems. Each student is assigned a specific solution and then determines their individual pH to complete their personal “Solution Biography.” Then the speed dating begins! For each date, the students need to find a specific match and determine their combined pH value. 

Soap Making

My first year teaching chemistry, I was looking for a soap-making lab or activity that I could run in my chemistry class with 25-30 students working at the same time. I usually do this activity right before spring break, as it provides enough time for the soap to harden and cure (high school students are impatient to use their soaps right away, which you should not do with cold process soap). I have used the activity at different points in the curriculum: during intermolecular forces, during acids and bases, and during stoichiometry. Although I know teachers who use soap making as a project during their stoichiometry unit, I chose to not emphasize the calculations as it would require more time than I have available. Simply making the soap easily fits in a 45-minute period.

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.  Students 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.

Titrations and Microscale Chemistry

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.

Real World Application: Drain Cleaners - Should I use them?

Common drain cleaners consist of water, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and sodium hydroxide (base) and/or potassium hydroxide (base). Bases are caustic (caustic loosely means to gnaw or eat away at) and can cause corrosion in metal pipes. Wouldn’t you know, our house has PVC piping through the fixtures that dump into a 45 year old cast iron pipe. The cast iron pipe is old and currently shows signs of surface rust and corrosion to the point where the pipe appears to be leaking then sealing itself in several spots. Not to mention the interior of the cast iron pipe may not be completely open, thus, not permitting a fast flow in drainage. Good news: a home warranty is being taken advantage of to hopefully replace the cast iron pipe with a PVC pipe.


My First Day Demonstration

I have a first day routine that I am very proud of. I have used it for 25 years and I think I finally have it down pat. I have spoken to students from 20 years ago at reunions and they tell me that they still remember the first day of chemistry so I think it is pretty good.