Have you ever had a student ask random questions about each and every element? More than ever it seems as if students are excited about the physical sciences and we, as educators, owe it to them to continue their curiosity. With so much information available at their fingertips, we want to verify that the information they are collecting is accurate.
Chemistry in its Element: Series One- The Elements is a podcast, developed by Chemistry World the magazine of the Royal Society of Chemistry, which provides a brief explanation of every known element of the Periodic Table. Each podcast is approximately seven minutes and describes the discovery of each element, its historical significance, as well as a unique story of its use. Who knew that tin played a significant role in the rise and fall of civilizations or that sodium can attract a certain species of butterflies. Although each podcast does not discuss the structure of each atom it does provide listeners with additional details that may not necessarily be on a website or textbook.
If students are not interested in specific elements, Chemistry World also has an additional podcast Chemistry in its Element: Series Two- The Compounds. Developed in a similar manner as The Elements, The Compounds series takes a closer look at the compounds that many students have questions about such as glucose, silver nitrate, gluten, and methane. What also should be noted is that many of these podcasts discuss misconceptions about the identified compound. One podcast in particular about methane clarifies the connection between cows and methane, a misconception that many students in introductory chemistry have. Although these podcasts are rich in knowledge it is to be noted that some discuss compounds that you may not want to be addressed in the classroom such as cocaine, MDMA, and morphine. Despite some compounds being inappropriate for the learning community, the majority of the Series Two podcasts are excellent resources for the students that want to know more about the compounds they are seeing on assignments, in their textbooks, or during a lab experiment.
So the next time you have a curious set of students who want to know more, refer them to the Chemistry in its Elements podcasts. These episodes are an excellent resource to share on a class webpage where students could download and listen to them as either part of an assignment or to deepen their understanding. Our students see these examples each day they are in our classrooms, let’s provide them with background information about some of these elements and compounds.