Throw the phrase “chemistry class” at someone to get their reaction. What do you predict it would be? A chalkboard full of stoichiometry problems? Wading through the atomic masses on the periodic table? Bubbling beakers? Something else? In any case, I’m guessing his or her first answer would not be, “Creative writing.”
The October 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: exploring the candy–cola soda geyser; peer-led team teaching; investigating students’ reasoning; fostering a student-centered learning environment; chemical education in India; activities to increase interest in chemistry; using a smartphone in the laboratory; food chemistry analysis; organic synthesis; green chemistry in the organic laboratory; materials science experiments; cost-effective laboratory equipment; teaching resources; JCE resources to celebrate National Chemistry Week 2016.
Engaging Student Interest and Inquiry
The September 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: copper chemistry; safety; using brewing to teach chemistry; 3D-printed models; learning using games; open-ended approaches to teaching; innovative methods to teach biochemistry; polymer chemistry; organic synthesis labs; teaching physical chemistry; chemistry field trips.
The genesis of this paper started with a request from a former student, Thomas Kuntzleman, now a professor of chemistry. He asked if I would consider submitting my thoughts about ‘big ideas’ in chemistry. In his email he attached a paper that I had written for the Journal of Chemical Education six years earlier1. That article was submitted the year after I retired and was a response to a submission questioning the utility of the Principle of Le Châtelier.
I am a very firm believer that the world of physical science can be visualized and is an excellent medium for teaching students to model and to picture what happens at the molecular level. The first topic we decided to explore was balancing chemical equations. This seems like such a simple topic to chemistry teachers but I have found that it can be quite challenging for many of my inner city students. The first thing they ask me for is a list of rules that they can follow. We can discuss the problems of algorithmic teaching in a later post! For the time being let’s talk about how to get students to understand why they need to balance equations and discuss what we can call “Conservation of Atoms”.
Thinking Like a Chemist
The May 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: assessment & learning theories, science literacy & chemical information, engaging young chemists in chemistry, analysis of real-world samples, organic chemistry in the classroom and lab, computational chemistry in the laboratory, thermodynamics, kinetics projects, understanding hydrophobic & hydrophilic materials.
Each year we work on specific heat of materials and the heat of fusion of ice. These are two labs that are typical for most chemistry classrooms. Most of the experiments involve a simple calorimetry experiment that uses a styrofoam cup and provides generally good results. There tend to be a couple of key ideas with all of these experiments.
This year in the midwest United States, winter has been a fickle friend. I haven’t seen the same amount of snow or ice as in recent years, but I still made sure I was prepared for it at our home. I went to my local big box hardware store in December and contemplated buying rock salt (NaCl), and NaCl/calcium chloride mixture, or just calcium chloride. Growing up my dad had switched entirely to calcium chloride because it was less damaging to the brick pavers leading to our porch and backyard. In fact, calcium chloride is generally much safer toward plants and soil than NaCl. Even though calcium chloride is much more expensive than rock salt (it was about twice the cost for 10 pounds more), that what’s I chose. Why?
Educational Opportunities and Challenges
The November 2015 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: materials science; polymer chemistry activities; green chemistry; biochemistry in the laboratory; research on student attitudes and the transition from high school to college chemistry; assessment; computer-based learning and computations; from the archives: chemistry YouTube videos.
Celebrating National Chemistry Week 2015: Chemistry Colors Our World
The October 2015 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. National Chemistry Week, a community-based annual event uniting ACS local sections, businesses, schools, and individuals in communicating the value of chemistry in our everyday life, is being celebrated October 18–24, 2015 with the theme “Chemistry Colors Our World”. Articles in this issue can help you make the most of this annual celebration.