Erica Jacobsen shares highlights from the July 2017 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education that are of special interest to high school chemistry teachers.
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The July 2017 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: artificial photosynthesis; developing laboratory skills through technology; using videos to enhance learning; smartphones in the laboratory; 3D printing as a teaching resource; exploring and understanding structure; making chemistry connections; research on inquiry; from the archives: elephant's toothpaste.
I recently watched a video in which a chemist (who goes by the nickname “NurdRage”) activated a chemiluminescent reaction by vapor deposition. I wanted to try it out for myself! Unfortunately, oxalyl chloride is toxic, corrosive, and a lachrymator. Thus, the experiment conducted by NurdRage needs to be conducted in a hood, and it is not particularly amenable to simple presentations. I began to wonder how I could create this vapor activated chemiluminescence using simple materials.
Over the past 30 years, numerous articles have been written about the importance of student teacher relationships. The National Education Association, NEA, offers advice for beginning teachers that includes establishing the classroom climate, conducting class efficiently, and reaching all students. When teachers effectively connect to their students, discipline problems decrease and student engagement increases.
My first year teaching chemistry, I was looking for a soap-making lab or activity that I could run in my chemistry class with 25-30 students working at the same time. I usually do this activity right before spring break, as it provides enough time for the soap to harden and cure (high school students are impatient to use their soaps right away, which you should not do with cold process soap). I have used the activity at different points in the curriculum: during intermolecular forces during acids and bases, and during stoichiometry. Although I know teachers who use soap making as a project during their stoichiometry unit, I chose to not emphasize the calculations as it would require more time than I have available. Simply making the soap easily fits in a 45-minute period.
45 minutes to just make the soap. Discussion of key concepts may take another class period.
In Chemical Mystery #10, plastic straws are observed to “magically” change color when waved in the air. Check out the explanation and the video.
As part of a two-week Chemistry Modeling Workshop™ in Houston, TX, I had the opportunity to read the Journal of Chemical Education article “When Atoms Want” by Vicente Talanquer of the University of Arizona. I researched Dr. Talanquer and discovered he created a collection of simulations called Chemical Thinking Interactives (CTI). These digital tools illustrate many chemistry topics with a focus on the particulate nature of matter.
In a recent post, I shared sample quiz questions as to how I have differentiated assessment within the mole unit. Here, I share a specific multi-day sequence within the stoichiometry unit. I have written extensively about the project that drives this unit (within the following blog posts: Why consider trying project based learning?, Backwards planning your PBL unit - An Overview of an Entire Unit and What ARE my students actually learning during this long term project (PBL)?), but very little about specific learning tasks. Below is a two day sequence of stoichiometry practice that I set up in my classroom. Stations are set up around the room and students rotate as necessary.
POGIL: ~1 hour
Lecture: ~30 minutes
Mastery check, differentiated practice, project planning: ~2 hours
In this simple trick, colors are made to "magically" appear and disappear on a straw. This science experiment is very easy to do...if you know your chemistry!
I saw the process of students thinking like scientists but what I struggled with, and I imagine many others do as well, is how students work together in groups. Yes...I know it is important but is this a big battle that I want to fight? I was fortunate to meet several people who have developed some wonderful “tricks of the trade” to help students work as “teams”.