Life, Death and the First Day of School....

What are we doing to help kids achieve and learn?

     I had a tough week. I had a front row seat in which I witnessed someone almost lose their life. I also almost accidently deleted both of my class websites just days before the kids walk in as we are starting a one to one lap top program. Here is the amazing part to all this...I get something that we all get as teachers every year...a second chance.  

     The kids come in on Thursday. As teachers we all get a blessing that few ever get...another try. We get a second chance to help, love, inspire, challenge and motivate a whole new set of kids. So what is the best way to start?

     Think like a kid. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine going to seven classes, sitting all day and getting a stack of papers. Here is a crazy idea. Let's pass out the papers and go over class rules on day two. What if we decide to get kids "doing chemistry" on day one? What would happen if they count the number of drops they can fit on a penny and then try it again with drops of soap? Why is there a difference? Place a teaspoon of salt in a full cup of water and then do the same with a teaspoon of sugar. What happens? Why? Were you surprised? Pour some carbon dioxide on a candle and don't tell the students it is carbon dioxide. Any questions? Should the first day be for passing out papers or should the first day be for doing what we want kids to do for the whole year...thinking and doing science?

     The kids are coming in and with it the miracle of a second chance...make the best of it. Inspire them with science, passion and let them know you care.  Here is to another try. Good luck and let us know at ChemEd X what we can do to help.


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Comments 5

Dan Meyers's picture
Dan Meyers | Sat, 08/20/2016 - 07:56

I like your thought process for limiting typical first day process in favor of getting kids right to chemistry. Any suggestions you can pass along - our first day (half day) consists of ten minute classes. Most demos would require going to a lab too which is too chaotic on day 1 with limited time.

Chad Husting's picture
Chad Husting | Wed, 08/24/2016 - 20:22

Try a magic trick and tell them to write down their observations.  Every one will be different...great talking point...

Caroline Lehman's picture
Caroline Lehman | Sat, 08/20/2016 - 17:31

Our first day is also a very short period.  My demo is with small test tubes.  I half fill them with water  before class. Once class begins I hand them out and quickly fill to the brim with ethyl alcohol.  The students put their thumbs over the mouth of the test tube (for that reason the tubes must be small enough for students thumbs to completely cover).  On the count of three, everyone inverts the test tubes.  Their thumbs will be pushed into the test tube and the more observant will also notice a change in temperature.  I do the experiment again when we are learning about IMF's and again when we are learning about energy.  I never explain how it works!  By the end of the year students will have learned sufficient chemistry to explain.

Chad Husting's picture
Chad Husting | Wed, 08/24/2016 - 20:21

Thanks for the ideas and comments.  Don't be afraid to keep on sharing.  We are all in this together.

Sandra G | Fri, 08/26/2016 - 10:34

Our first day has shortened periods.  I usually do the mentos and diet cola demonstration (outside!) for the first day, and ask the students if it is a physical or chemical change that occurs. This gets us started right off with physical vs. chemical changes, observations, and critical thinking. 

Sandra Goodrich

Pentucket Regional High School, West Newbury, MA