Most chemistry teachers I know do flame tests with their students. It ties in well with many topics, is colorful and the kids enjoy seeing the colors and burning stuff. There are many applications. For years I always mentioned that astronomers use the idea of the flame test. They simply look at stars and examine the spectra from the light of these stars. They then match the spectra with the elements and then they can see and infer what elements are millions of light years away. I always mentioned this but never was able to demonstrate it.
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I have always been intrigued by the story of the Hindenburg, the iconic airship that caught fire on May 6, 1937. The accident killed 35 of the 100 passengers and crewmembers on board. As a chemistry teacher, I discuss this from a chemical standpoint and the fact that the airship was filled with hydrogen, a flammable gas, rather than helium, a non-flammable gas, as today’s modern airships are.
I have to be honest. I am not big on showing videos that take up a whole class period. Most videos I try to make or get off of You Tube and usually I can asign them for homework. I never want them to be more than ten minutes long.
National Chemistry Week begins on October 16 this year. It’s a time for celebration, a time to highlight chemistry’s contributions to our lives, a time to spark interest in this particular science. How will you mark the occasion? Participation in community outreach activities, perhaps? Highlighting NCW in your classes?
The October 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: exploring the candy–cola soda geyser; peer-led team teaching; investigating students’ reasoning; fostering a student-centered learning environment; chemical education in India; activities to increase interest in chemistry; using a smartphone in the laboratory; food chemistry analysis; organic synthesis; green chemistry in the organic laboratory; materials science experiments; cost-effective laboratory equipment; teaching resources; JCE resources to celebrate National Chemistry Week 2016.
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.
55-60 minutes for both parts of the extension activity
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.
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.