Erica Jacobsen shares highlights from the February 2019 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education.
The solution to Chemical Mystery #13: Bye Bye Blue! is presented. This experiment is useful to demonstrate to students when discussing acid-base indicators, neutralization reactions, or the acidity of carbon dioxide when it dissolves in water.
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.
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.
In a dramatic movie trailer voice: “The Boiling Point. Gone without a trace. Or were they? The scene… a mystery. Had they disappeared? Been broken up into unrecognizable pieces? Can our hero find the answer? Or will it be too late?”
How can I engage my students (and myself) for the last half of the semester? I read recently that the human attention span in 2015 is 8.25 seconds(link is external), which is down from 2000’s 12-second span. Currently, we are just beneath goldfish, who can attend to one thought for 9 seconds. I’m not sure of the methods of the research study, and I maintain a level of healthy skepticism. However, I admit my thoughts often spring from topic to topic like a bubble gum machine bouncy ball.
One of my favorite things to talk about with my colleagues is the use of lecture demonstrations in teaching. There seems to be a push in my district to stop using chemicals whenever possible and get to computer simulations and video in place of wet chemistry. I don’t think they are thrilled with me since I can’t envision ever taking the chemistry out of chemistry.
Most chemical educators will agree that exciting demonstrations are excellent motivators to create interest in science. They are also a way to create interest in the community, motivate the student-demonstrators, and perhaps to make a little money to support special activities of an ACS Chem Club. Chemical demonstration shows, organized around holidays or other special occasions have a long and honored history. Pacifica High School (Garden Grove, CA) took its inspiration from the lecture-demonstrations of Michael Faraday, given during the Christmas holidays of 1860-61. (The Chemical History of A Candle).
An outline for the Halloween Chemistry Show Demonstration at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame IN, is presented. Organized by Saint Mary’s Affiliate of the American Chemical Society (SMAACS) student club, this show has become an annual event with an average attendance of over 200 people. The club’s main goal is to generate interest in the sciences among children; while stimulating a pursuit for continued education and hopefully future careers in STEM fields. The Halloween Chemistry Show aspires to that goal by providing an interactive experience for all children in attendance while presenting thought-provoking demonstrations for the entire audience.
As I maneuver through the school year, a certain rhythm develops. The start of the year brings the excitement of new classes and new students. I'm often trying new things in the fall as I've reflected on the previous year's teaching over the summer.