Especially JCE—November 2015

What draws you in to read an article you see in a magazine or journal? Past experiences? Current interests? In the case of the November 2015 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education, it was Darth Vader.

From Lobster Shells to Plastic Objects: A Bioplastics Activity pulled me in with its graphics. The abstract figure shows a cycle from a biopolymer found in lobster, crab, and shrimp shells, to a molding process, to a finished object—in this case, a quarter-sized Darth Vader mask. The authors have used the activity with grade school audiences and older. They include details for how they’ve broken down the presentation in an outreach situation at a library. The procedure requires chitin or chitosan purchased from a chemical supply company, but the rest of the minimal materials can be purchased locally. The molded pieces are produced by pouring a chitin or chitosan solution made with white vinegar into the molds, then letting the solution evaporate. After 1–4 days, students are left with an appealing memento of their biopolymer experience.

Ballroom dance was one of my favorite electives during my time as an undergrad, but the subject never made a crossover into the chemistry courses I was taking. The authors of DanceChemistry: Helping Students Visualize Chemistry Concepts through Dance Videos aim to change that. Inspired by the “Dance Your Ph.D.” competition (see reference 5 in the paper), seven videos have been created, with topics such as solubility, and relationship between temperature and pressure. Along with the dance movements, things like the color of dancers’ clothing and other props assist with understanding. For example, dancers who are the sample on a TLC plate wear orange, while the plate dancers wear white with a black armband to represent hydrogen bonding abilities. The videos are one way to add the “A” (arts) to your STEM, to make the STEAM that many are talking about. What other concepts would link well with the high school curriculum that Tay and Edwards might translate into DanceChemistry videos?

History has been a major player this fall in the science class I teach at a local elementary school. The curriculum links people from ancient times (currently Aristotle) with experiments, and discusses how past knowledge relates to what we know about science today. I like the approach—it overlaps with the students’ history class and shows that science study is not carried out in a vacuum. A deeper knowledge on my part of the connections between science and history would be a benefit. How Did We Get Here? Teaching Chemistry with a Historical Perspective suggests one solution—the development of “a history of chemical discoveries course … offered to in-service and preservice teachers to provide a comprehensive review of the chemical discoveries and the historical context in which chemists made them.” They ask others to develop and implement such courses at their institutions, offering suggested texts and a possible course overview. I can begin a self-study with the text list, but even better would be a massive open online course freely available to educators. The course overview meshes well with the Mystery of Matter videos discussed recently at the ChemEd XChange (see here, here, and here), which are another way to take your students back in history.

What did this month’s collaborators choose?

Tracy Schloemer kicks off a discussion of Developing and Implementing an Assessment Technique To Measure Linked Concepts.

Michelle Okroy labels Preparation for College General Chemistry: More than Just a Matter of Content Knowledge Acquisition"a must read for all high school chemistry teachers." Learn why!

For the entire issue, see Mary Saecker’s JCE 92.11—November Issue Highlights.

What would you choose? Help out with a future Especially JCE post. Submit a request to contribute, explaining how you would like to contribute to the column. Questions? Contact us using the XChange’s contact form.