I have always been intrigued by the story of the Hindenburg, the iconic airship that caught fire on May 6, 1937. The accident killed 35 of the 100 passengers and crewmembers on board. As a chemistry teacher, I discuss this from a chemical standpoint and the fact that the airship was filled with hydrogen, a flammable gas, rather than helium, a non-flammable gas, as today’s modern airships are.
Tom Kuntzleman loves to share chemical mysteries and that inspired me to create a list of mysteries that are appropriate for the main topics covered in IB Chemistry. In this blog post I'd like to share some detail about how I modified the mystery of the burning water.
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.
Just this week I'm reviewing equilibrium with my IB Chemistry seniors after they finished some summer study on the topic. One of our classes was spent manipulating a classic equilibrium involving copper ions and a copper-chloride complex ion.
The first day of school for me has always been daunting for my new students (in AP chemistry, where I know the kids, it’s so much easier). I want my students to know the following: -Who is this tiny person who looks like a teenager (that’d be ME, folks)? Where did she come from and why is she teaching us? -What does chemistry look like?
I had a tough week. I had a front row seat in which I witnessed someone almost lose their life. I also almost accidently deleted both of my class websites just days before the kids walk in as we are starting a one to one lap top program. Here is the amazing part to all this...I get something that we all get as teachers every year...a second chance.
In Chemical Mystery #7, a can of Coca-Cola was observed to sink in one container of water and yet float in another! This trick made use of the fact that the density of water changes with temperature. See the video below.
Q: Does an unopened can of soda pop float or sink in water?
A: It depends!
See if you can figure out what is happening in this twist on the classic floating-and-sinking soda can experiment.
Throughout the last ten years teaching both chemistry and Advanced Placement Chemistry I have realized that the concept of equilibrium does not receive enough attention in my first-year chemistry course. Sure, the concept of equilibrium is a topic mentioned and identified throughout the course however the dialogue in regards to conditions that would shift the chemical system is minimal at best.
Inspired by Tom Kuntzleman*, I started using mysteries in my chemistry curriculum this past year. The first mystery I shared with my students was burning water. While my magician skills aren't perfect, I was able to get the students asking questions and proposing hypotheses. For my IB students, it really allowed me to delve into a number of topics (e.g. combustion, intermolecular forces, polarity, density). And thus an idea was born: Using one mystery per topic. In this blog post I'll discuss my beginning effort to find or develop a mystery for each topic within the IB Chemistry curriculum.