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.
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.
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.
I have used several different versions of the Silver Mirror or Tollen's Test lab. I am sharing the method that has proven to be the most reliable for me. The solutions should be made fresh, the directions must be followed closely and timing is very important. I like the fact that relatively small amounts of the chemicals are required, but as always you must be vigilant with safety precautions.
This activity was submitted for a 2016 ChemEd X Call for Contributions soliciting input regarding the big ideas being put forth by organizations like AP. The author shares a lab activity that relies on connections - between stoichiometry, esterification, equilibrium, kinetics, titrations and uncertainty of calculations. He also shares the resources he created.
In a previous post I talked about an equation balancing lab that I have been doing with my students involving building molecular models. This time I would like to focus on another lab that I have developed for my model kits.
Organic chemistry was when I fell in love with chemistry. Also known as Chem 210 at the University of Michigan, it was the first time I actually started to connect what was going on at the nanoscopic level to the macroscopic world. Since then, I’ve been hooked.