We continue to hear bad news about chemistry classroom accidents. Please share this with your cohorts. We cannot assume that everyone knows how to be safe when performing demonstrations.
Educational Opportunities and Challenges
The November 2015 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: materials science; polymer chemistry activities; green chemistry; biochemistry in the laboratory; research on student attitudes and the transition from high school to college chemistry; assessment; computer-based learning and computations; from the archives: chemistry YouTube videos.
I used to be big into concept maps as an additional way for my students to show understanding besides a quiz or test. In fact, so much so, that my students a few years ago had to make a concept map as a mandatory test review. I’ve shied away from that over the past few years in a new school (why? I’m actually not so sure) - probably because I got too much information from my students about their level of understanding. I’m sure if I conducted a rigorous method of assessment, there would be a correlation between how well students could connect ideas and assessment scores.
Are kids learning? Given the time it takes to implement and grade the activity, do I get a lot of "educational moments" out of it? Does it fit into the culture of the classroom? Is there a great deal of "conceptually rich" material in the activity that students can build on? I believe that two activities I tried this week fit the bill.
I love the periodic table. I love the order, the stories, the trends and patterns, the people who made it. I love how it can be used. I love that it is the ultimate cheat sheet for a scientists or a student taking chemistry. I love the different types of periodic tables that exist. My love for this table is pretty evident. I have four periodic table ties and a periodic table bow tie. My wife went to Florida for a week to take care of her sick mother and while she was gone, I bought a periodic table shower curtain. I learned two things pretty quickly. Eight year old boys can't keep secrets (my son specifically) and as much as my darling wife loves me, she drew the line on the shower curtain. It was her or the shower curtain. So, I took it to school and tried to put it in the one place that made sense...next to the safety shower.
You can perform an orange to black chemistry demonstration using materials commonly found in stores. The reaction appears to be similar to the Old Nassau reaction, but uses greener reagents. This is a great demonstration to do around Halloween time.
There is a hydrate lab which is done by many teachers. Typically, students first use a known hydrate and are provided the formula. As an example, they might use CuSO4. 5H2O. On paper, they would work through the percent by mass of water in copper (II) sulfate pentahydrate. They then would be given a mass of the copper (II) sulfate pentahydrate, calculate how much water they should lose and then they would heat it and compare the data with the calculated value. Next, they are given an unknown hydrate. They are also given the molar mass of the unknown salt of the hydrate and they have to calculate the molar ratio of salt to water based on their data. Here is one possible way to “tweak” this lab.
Every October I get excited; not as much for halloween, but rather for Mole Day! I have been a member of the National Mole Day Foundation (NMDF) since the beginning of my career and enjoy celebrating with my students. My first year of teaching we (the chemistry classes) hosted a Chemistry Carnival. My students did demonstrations for the elementary and middle