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Are kids learning? Given the time it takes to implement and grade the activity, do I get a lot of "educational moments" out of it? Does it fit into the culture of the classroom? Is there a great deal of "conceptually rich" material in the activity that students can build on? I believe that two activities I tried this week fit the bill.
I love the periodic table. I love the order, the stories, the trends and patterns, the people who made it. I love how it can be used. I love that it is the ultimate cheat sheet for a scientists or a student taking chemistry. I love the different types of periodic tables that exist. My love for this table is pretty evident.
You can perform an orange to black chemistry demonstration using materials commonly found in stores. The reaction appears to be similar to the Old Nassau reaction, but uses greener reagents. This is a great demonstration to do around Halloween time.
There is a hydrate lab which is done by many teachers. Typically, students first use a known hydrate and are provided the formula. As an example, they might use CuSO4 . 5H2O. On paper, they would work through the percent by mass of water in copper (II) sulfate pentahydrate. They then would be given a mass of the copper (II) sulfate pentahydrate, calculate how much water they should lose and then they would heat it and compare the data with the calculated value. Next, they are given an unknown hydrate. They are also given the molar mass of the unknown salt of the hydrate and they have to calculate the molar ratio of salt to water based on their data. Here is one possible way to “tweak” this lab.
Every October I get excited; not as much for halloween, but rather for Mole Day! I have been a member of the National Mole Day Foundation (NMDF) since the beginning of my career and enjoy celebrating with my students. My first year of teaching we (the chemistry classes) hosted
We, as teachers, can see that life is sometimes like this and we care enough about our students that we want to try to prepare them for careers and problems that we can’t even imagine….because we believe that good education can empower people to go further and reach higher than they could ever dream….and maybe the journey we will start together begins with a simple question in which the answer may not seem immediately obvious...and that is O.K….
Does the phrase “Especially for High School Teachers” ring a bell? Journal of Chemical Education readers may remember this feature from past issues. Could it be time for its return, with a twist?
Common drain cleaners consist of water, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and sodium hydroxide (base) and/or potassium hydroxide (base). Bases are caustic (caustic loosely means to gnaw or eat away at) and can cause corrosion in metal pipes. Wouldn’t you know, our house has PVC piping through the fixtures that dump into a 45 year old cast iron pipe. The cast iron pipe is old and currently shows signs of surface rust and corrosion to the point where the pipe appears to be leaking then sealing itself in several spots. Not to mention the interior of the cast iron pipe may not be completely open, thus, not permitting a fast flow in drainage. Good news: a home warranty is being taken advantage of to hopefully replace the cast iron pipe with a PVC pipe.
A few years ago, we launched a weather balloon during our summer science camp. The balloon reached an altitude of 30 km (100,000 ft)! Among other things, this project ended up being a great way to teach campers about the gas laws and how atmospheric pressure decreases with altitude.
We all have plans. As teachers we plan every week and worry about time, depth, amount, types of assessment and state mandates. Most importantly, are the kids learning? We give it our best shot. Sometimes, we have to go to plan B.