I am sitting in Greeley Colorado. It is the first day of the 2016 BCCE. Time to get my learn on! I have spent the last week pouring over the schedule and deciding what I want to attend and a huge problem has developed. I am double booked almost every day!
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A quick search on Amazon for a package of 144 ping pong balls and a trip to the arts and crafts store for paint, magnets, and glue and I was ready to start making my own class set of model kits.
I am a very firm believer that the world of physical science can be visualized and is an excellent medium for teaching students to model and to picture what happens at the molecular level. The first topic we decided to explore was balancing chemical equations. This seems like such a simple topic to chemistry teachers but I have found that it can be quite challenging for many of my inner city students. The first thing they ask me for is a list of rules that they can follow. We can discuss the problems of algorithmic teaching in a later post! For the time being let’s talk about how to get students to understand why they need to balance equations and discuss what we can call “Conservation of Atoms”.
One of my biggest struggles with students is to try to explain what happens when items, specific inorganic salts, dissolve in water. It might sound simple to me and you. Research shows that students have many real misconceptions when it comes to explaining inorganic salts dissolving in water. My own experience along with other teachers I know is that we are amazed and sometimes frustrated with trying to help students understand the simple process of dissolving, especially with ions. A key piece of equipment is a good conductivity tester. Just got done making a stack of them and can't wait to have students try them. But back to "dissolving"....
Exploration of Instrument Design and Performance
The July 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: cost-effective instrumentation, including 3D printed instruments and low-cost spectroscopy; laboratory instrumentation and equipment; effective teaching assistants in chemistry; laboratory experiments; resources for teaching; puzzles and games to introduce the periodic table.
My students are bright and motivated. Most work hard and prepare for class and tests. They perform extremely well on district-wide tests and my own classroom tests. However, I see real weaknesses on cumulative assessments requiring high levels of application. My students simply do not retain the content knowledge. I want to restructure my course to exclude "unit tests" and include only cumulative assessments. I'll share my early ideas here, and I would love to hear your experiences.
Precisely timed series of interventions lead to the growth of complex, three-dimensional microscale structures.
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.
Back to school time means back to lab time too. Students new to chemistry have a lot on their plates the first few labs—learning unfamiliar safety procedures, becoming accustomed to writing lab reports, even figuring out which glassware they’re looking for in their lab space. How can teachers help them to navigate this newness? Two articles in the July 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education are useful resources for “back to lab” time.