The Cautious Chemist Corner: Safety in the Classroom and Laboratory

Chemistry classroom accidents have been in the news too often recently. I hazard to suggest that there are smaller incidents that never make the news because there are luckily no serious injuries. We need to be vigilant in our safety concerns to protect our students and ourselves from any accidents and exposure to hazardous substances. We also need to be aware of theft concerns. Unfortunately, students may be looking for ingredients to experiment with explosives or to manufacture illicit drugs.

Cautious Chemist Corner #1

I was at a chemistry teacher workshop recently and we participated in a common Hess’s Law laboratory. Part of the procedure required us to measure about 2 grams of solid NaOH and add it to 100 mL of 0.5 M HCl. We also added 50 mL of 1 M NaOH solution to 50 mL of 0.5 M HCl solution. We then compared the energy change of both containers.

How do you teach "entropy" to high school students?

I was recently drawn to an article published ASAP in JCE entitled . Erick Castellon wrote the article highlighting the use of three toys that are used to help students develop an understanding of the second law of thermodynamics and entropy by having them observe the working of the toys and the energy transfers that occur while playing with them. I already had two of the toys, the radiometer and the drinking bird. I ordered the from the link provided in the supporting information. As I waited for the stirling engine to arrive from Japan (which was only a few days) I attempted to write an activity to guide my students to conceptual understanding as they worked with the toys.

Cross-Discipline Discussions on Energy

Have you ever thought about the ways we, as chemistry teachers, talk about the concept of energy?  Think about all the different terms we use when we talk about the role of energy in our curriculum:  endothermic, exothermic, heat, specific heat, heat capacity, enthalpy, tempera


It's interesting to me how a word can define a class. The longer I teach, the more excited and quickly I can cover a concept. However, this pace does not necessarily fit well with my students, so we have a code word:  Traxoline (thanks to Judy Lanier).

ChemClub FUN

I am excited with my student's response to offering an ACS ChemClub at our high school! ACS does a great job of providing materials and ideas for meetings.

ACS offers safety webinar

ACS is offering an upcoming webinar highlighting safety called "Tales, Investigations, and Lessons Learned". The role of the US Chemical Safety Board will be defined. Root cause investigations of chemical accidents will be reviewed. Tips on how to prevent chemical accidents will be reviewed. 

Journal of Chemical Education FREE issue

The Journal of Chemical Education is providing open access to the January 2014 issue. If you don't already have a subscriptiion, this is an excellent opportunity to check out what they have to offer. The new American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT) is highlighted in several articles within the January issue.

Conant Awards Inspire

The national ACS James Bryant Conant award was established in 1965 to encourage and recognize outstanding high school chemistry teachers. Candidates are chosen based upon evidence of high quality teaching, ability to challenge and inspire, extracurricular activities that support their work and pursuit of continued improvement of their role as an educator.