inquiry-based discovery learning

JCE 93.03 March 2016 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education March 2016 Cover

​Chemical Information Special Issue 

The March 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. The entire issue is devoted to topics on various aspects of chemical information and information literacy: chemical education research on information literacy; chemical information literacy for undergraduates; chemical information literacy for graduate students; prototypes and best practices; discovery.

What is it a student should be able to do and explain? How do we find that out???

mole activity

A perfect storm starts to form. We are on the concept of moles and I have some students who are struggling mathematically. It is a rough time of year to get kids excited. Many students are struggling with ACT and SAT prep and as a teacher, I am tired of test...test...test. Also, I had about two dozen 2 liter bottle "pre forms" that I needed to find something to do with.

Quick and Easy Lab Practicals...

Flinn Scientific has a great elearning video series. Many of the videos have master teachers demonstrating some great labs and techniques that they do in the classroom. A general theme in many of the videos seems to be combining demonstrations, labs, calculations and lab practicals. The nice part about what occurs is that for whatever concept the students are doing, it is not enough to come up with an answer on paper. They have to use that answer for a prediction and then see if they are correct actually checking and manipulating material. This idea has added a new dimension to my classroom. Students who are tired of "pen and paper" work now get to get up and use their answers to mass something or find the volume of something and see if they are correct. I have tried to add more of these to my lessons.

Too Many Questions!?!


As we pilot new laboratory activities in the classroom, my students and I are in constant dialogue. Not only do they leave feedback at the end of each lesson (what did you learn, what was your favorite part, what was you least favorite part), but we talk throughout the experiment. Recently our discussion was focused on the questions.

Colligative Properties in Real Life

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?

JCE 93.02 February 2016 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education February 2016 Cover

Providing Unique Learning Experiences

The February 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: metal–organic cage & host–guest interactions; safety; innovative teaching approaches; understanding kinetics; computer-based instruction; activities combining ethics and analysis; “play with your food” laboratories; synthesis and analysis in the laboratory; fluorescence-based experiments; chemical education research; mining the archives: copper.

Great Introduction for Physical/Chemical Changes and Balancing

I hate to sound like a broken record but I used two activities from Grand Valley State Target Inquiry Program (link is external) that worked amazingly well and had a great "flow". Chad Bridle wrote two inquiry activities that dovetail together. The first is "Changes You Can Believe In". Students are presented first with nine cards that are particulate drawings of changes that occur in matter.

POGIL, Posting Keys Online, Cheating and Checkpoints

POGIL High School Chemistry

We had just had some snow days and I had the feeling that I was getting behind. In one class we were approaching the topic of orbital diagrams and electron configurations. I was tempted to just say, "Here are the notes." Sometimes there is nothing wrong with that. This time, something was eating at me. Instead I picked a POGIL (link is external) from the "High School Chemistry" (link is external) book that presented the ideas through guided inquiry.

The first PBL experience I facilitated was a flop.

My first big project my students engaged in during the 2013-14 school year was, at best, a mediocre experience and, at worst, a giant waste of valuable instructional time we'd never get back. I was at a new school and had a lot of goals I wanted to explore - further investing time into developing classroom culture, engaging students into taking more ownership in their learning instead of being passive recipients, pushing students deeper while meeting them where they were at - in short, developing my teaching identity in a context with a lot of autonomy. I had total teaching freedom.


Inquiry, "Sticky Water" and some great models...

Sticky Water Lab

 I just completed covering "ionic and covalent" bonding with my studenets. I wanted to bridge the gap to intermolecular forces. I found a great lab called "Sticky Water" from Target Inquiry - Grand Valley State.(link is external)  Before I continue, I have to provide "full disclosure". I spent three years with the Target Inquiry Program at Miami University Ohio (Project TIMU(link is external)). There is a lab called "Sticky Water" that was written  by a teacher in the Grand Valley State program. First, the activity focuses on just water, then ethane, then ethanol.