hands-on learning

Who inspires you?

heating of copper II sulfate

This blog post may be a bit non-traditional, but in this submission I recall a memory from early in my teaching career when my dad (who was an environmental chemist) visited my classroom. The day remains embedded in my memory bank, and had a profound impact on how I view labs - as an opportunity to extend the learning.

Modeling the Concept of Ionic Bonding

film canisters with different strengths of magnets

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? 

JCE 94.05 May 2017 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education May 2017 Cover

Lasting Value and High Impact

The May 2017 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: project- and inquiry-based laboratories; measuring value and impact; research on core ideas and clickers; new twists on classic activities; understanding diffraction; acid-base chemistry; teaching informed by technology: flipped learning, biochemistry labs, and scientific computing for chemists; from the archives: chemistry helps feed the world.

Exploring the Diet Coke and Mentos Experiment

Diet Coke and Mentos eruption

I think this experiment provides a fantastic vehicle to involve students of all ages in small, hands-on and exploratory research projects. Like many others, my students and I have investigated various aspects of this interesting fountain.

Chemistry in a Bottle

density bottles

Are you familiar with the dynamic density bottle experiment? This interesting experiment was invented by Lynn Higgins, and is sold by various science supply companies. Two immiscible liquids (usually salt water and isopropyl alcohol) and two different types of plastic pieces are contained within a dynamic density bottle. The plastic pieces display curious floating and sinking behavior when the bottle is shaken. You can find out even more about how a colleague and I have explored the experiment by attending our session within the ChemEd X Conference: Chemistry Education for the Next Generation.

Especially JCE: April 2017

Erica Jacobsen shares highlights from the April 2017 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education that are of special interest to high school chemistry teachers.

JCE 94.04 April 2017 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education April 2017 Cover

Resources To Inform Teaching and Learning

The April 2017 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: green chemistry; environmental chemistry; using food chemistry to teach; 2016 Jame Bryant Award; development of important skills; chemical education research: assessment; advanced laboratories; from the archives: water quality.

Investigations of Chemicals in Natural Food Coloring. Part 3: Sunflower

Fluorescence of sunflower dye

The chemistry of the Sunflower dye found in McCormick’s Color from Nature food dyes is explored in this post. This is the last in a three-part series in which several experiments and demonstrations that can be done with Color from Nature food dyes are described.

Hydrates Take 2

hydrate lab

My students and I tend to have good experiences with a hydrate inquiry lab that I have "tweaked" (see the previous blog). Essentially, my students have some practice with hydrates in the lab and then they are provided an unknown hydrate. They must separate off the water by heating and calculate the mass of the anhydrous salt and container before they come up and put it on the scale. As an added twist, they must also ask me a question about what information they need from me to calculate the mole to mole ratio of the salt to water.

JCE 94.03 March 2017 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education March 2017 Cover

Promoting Problem-Solving and Discovery Learning

The March 2017 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: protein chemistry; making connections in in chemical education research; chemical bonding; importance of non-technical skills; courses built on reactivity; periodic table; heterocyclic compounds; teaching resources; from the archives: Using Wikipedia and Wikis to teach.