JCE ChemEd Xchange provides a place for sharing information and opinions. Currently, articles, blogs and reading lists from ChemEd X contributors are listed below. We plan to include other items that the community wishes to share through their contributions to ChemEd X.

Extension Activity with Isotopes Matter

Isotopes Matter Interactive Periodic Table

After receiving positive feedback from Peter Mahaffy, the IUPAC project co-chair of Isotopes Matter, I decided to add an additional component to the original isotope assignment I posted. The second component of the assignment focuses on the applications of both radioactive and stable isotopes using the interactive IUPAC periodic table.

Time required: 

55-60 minutes for both parts of the extension activity

Big Ideas in AP Chemistry: Connections Among Thermodynamics and Equilibrium

revamping a unit

I have a confession: thermodynamics is not my strong suit. The data set I got from the College Board confirmed my lack of confidence in the summer of 2015. With the hope of improvements, I spent some time revamping my thermo unit and I implemented it near the end of last school year. I will share an activity that I feel was quite formative for students and for me in making connections among thermodynamic principles and equilibrium.


Henry Ford and Trying Again....

The first few experiments and labs that I use to start the year off are more like “probes”.  I am trying to figure out the strong and weak points for my students. I have found a couple of things we can work on. The two major areas are observations and communication. We need to work on writing sentences that use data and background information to support the theories students develop.

Kool-aid, Cotton, and Intermolecular Forces

Dyed fibers

Red dye #40 found in strawberry Kool-Aid and various cloth fibers can be used in a very simple experiment that can teach students about intermolecular forces. A video is included that describes the experiment and analysis of results. 

The Importance of Safety.

testing the safety shower

 Undergraduates Need a Safety Education is the title found in the commentary section of the September 2016 Journal of Chemical Education. It is written by Robert H. Hill Jr and it explains the lack of safety education in chemistry curriculum.  As I read this, I thought back to my safety education that prepared me for my role as a high school chemistry teacher and felt I was very fortunate to have had an undergradutae class that was specifically designed to teach chemical safety. 

Practicums in Chemistry

forensics practicum

The purpose of a lab practicum is to assess a student’s understanding of the content by completing a hands-on challenge. These assessments focus more on problem-solving skills than technique. 

Walking in the Footsteps of Scientists Who Came Before Us


I started teaching in a chronological order when I began using Modeling Instruction in my classroom. During the second year of "walking in the footprints of the scientists that came before us", I wanted my students to see where they were walking and a colleague and I came up with the idea of making footprints for each of those scientists and posting them on a timeline.

If only I could bottle this...

cartesian divers

Each year we do an activity that involves Archimedes principle. You might wonder...why do this in chemistry? Leading up to the activity, students do a series of labs and activities that involve measuring, accuracy, precision, significant numbers and density. The culminating guided inquiry activity takes place by which students take an object, find the volume in multiple fluids and find the mass in multiple fluids. An examination of class data starts to show that the volume of a solid does not change in fluids but the mass in air and the mass in different fluids are different.

Standards and Mastery Connect

Mastery Connect website

There has been considerable discussion lately of standard based teaching. Essentially, a teacher has a set of standards and they teach to these standards. The idea is that instead of saying "Hey, you got a C on this test, time to move on..." a teacher would say "This is the can exceed it, meet it or you can approach it...the goal is to meet or exceed the standard and if you do not, keep trying." Here is an example...we were covering gas laws in my class. I asked seven questions about conceptual ideas concerning gas laws.

Titration of an Esterification Reaction to Determine Equilibrium Constant

ChemEd X recently made a Call for Contributions soliciting input regarding the big ideas being put forth by organizations like AP. The first thing that came to mind was a lab I modified that is centered around making connections between topics. Admittedly, this lab is not a "big idea" per se. Rather, it's the big idea that students should be able to make connections between topics we study to solve problems. So in this blog post, I would like to share a lab activity that relies on these connections - between stoichiometry, esterification, equilibrium, kinetics, titrations and uncertainty of calculations. I will also share the resources I have created to support my students through the process of working through these calculations.

Time required: 

Three class periods

Day 1: setup of equilibrium mixture; roughly 30 minutes

Day 2: titration of equilibrium mixture (approximately 1 week after Day 1); roughly 60 minutes

Day 3: calculations; variable time required - typically 30-90 minutes depending on the student group