inquiry-based discovery learning

Geometric Approach to Lewis Structures


If you look at any chemistry textbook, you will see Lewis structures introduced long before electronic and molecular geometries. This makes sense since you need Lewis structures to determine molecular geometry. Unfortunately, research has shown that students often do not recognize that the purpose of drawing Lewis structures is not to create the structure itself but to use it as tool to understand the properties of the molecule (Cooper, Grove, Underwood & Klymkowsky, 2010).

Tell Me a Story

Tell me a story

Just as our lives and various circumstances have a story, so do our laboratory experiences. Often the labs we do lack context but we expect students to buy in to the experiment without knowing the what, where, or why of the story. What makes this lab worth doing? What question(s) are we trying to answer? Why was someone exploring this in the first place?

Spring Fever, Stoichiometry and Specific Heat


From the looks of things, we are all in the same boat. Spring fever. I had two groups of students. Both are ending 3rd quarter, looking out a window at the first nice weather we have had in weeks. Most are already planning their spring break vacation and some have left early. Notice, not much talk about chemistry. The curriculum said it was time for stoichiometry for one group and specific heat for another. Just what the kids wanted to do (read with sarcasm).

An Unexpected Source of Inquiry-Based Lab Practicals


Each spring my Local Section of The American Chemical Society (ACS) hosts a rigorous two part exam as part of the selection process for the The International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO)  IChO is an annual international competition for the world’s top chemistry students. Each year, nations from all over the world will send teams of four to compete for top honors.

Time required: 

45 minutes

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.