I am already planning for my trip to Illinois in July to attend ChemEd 2019! Let me tell you why I want to attend.
It all began a few years ago. I was complacent in my routines of teaching state level and Advanced Placement Chemistry after only nine years of teaching. A colleague mentioned a program I should apply for in my area that helps to connect STEM teachers. Many regions have networks through which science teachers can share ideas. When I joined a team in my area I was immediately reinvigorated. I met four chemistry teachers on Long Island who were ready and willing to share resources and change the chemistry education world! Four. Just four. We were ambitious and excited but we had no idea where to start! One of my new colleagues was Stephanie O’Brien. (We are now fellow ChemEd X Lead Contributors.) We were researching ideas and when we saw the opportunity to attend conferences, the two of us decided to attend out first ChemEd Conference, the 2015 ChemEd Conference in Kennesaw, Georgia. We were forever changed.
We drove fourteen hours straight to Kennesaw and made it just in time to the opening ceremonies. Exhausted and delirious we listened to some announcements but came back to life when we saw Aaron Sams (of FlippedClass.com fame) during the plenary. Inspired, but still tuckered out, we decided to look ahead to plan which workshops and sessions we should attend for the rest of the week. We opened our programs and were overwhelmed by the amount of options we had. Should we go to the session about AP Chemistry lessons or the workshop for inquiry labs? And then in session two, how do we pick from the three we narrowed it down to? The choice was obvious, divide and conquer! My friend and I split up the sessions and met up at dining times to share our ideas. We couldn’t speak fast enough to get out all the new ideas and exciting things we witnessed. Our tiny notebooks were flooded with diagrams, lab ideas, and scribblings of notes that we needed to keep for the school year. And our school bags were packed with “make and take” activities, handouts from
workshops and symposia, and freebies from the exhibit hall.
Chemistry instructors at all levels can benefit from this conference. There are numerous workshops and sessions devoted to state level, Advanced Placement and college level classes. There is a daylong symposium at ChemEd devoted specifically to AP chemistry. There is at least one session led by the AP chief reader or someone with similar knowledge that reviews that year’s AP exam and explains how the exam was graded and scores were calculated. They also point out common pitfalls and help teachers understand how they can enhance their methods to help their students avoid those. I got a lot out of that session with the Chief Reader. At the end of his session, they also explained how to become an AP Exam Reader. I promptly introduced myself to the chief reader at the time, applied, and I can now say I have read two exams and it is an amazing experience.
By the end of the conference, we ran 3.1 miles in the Mole Run, participated in a lecture by Ramsey Musallam, won books written by Larry Gonick, witnessed “So You Think You Can Demo?” where Tom Kuntzleman introduced us to orange peel balloon popping, and we attended numerous workshops and symposia. It was only July and our classes didn’t begin until September, but it was not soon enough for us! We were eager to try our new skills. But the best part of the conference was meeting a new network of friends that share a common nerdy passion for all things chemistry. This network of chemistry teachers has kept me enthused all year long, for years on end.
Since my first ChemEd Conference, I have attended each ChemEd and BCCE (Biennial Conference on Chemical Education), which alternate each year. Every summer my network of teachers has grown. I can credit most of my understanding of NGSS, CER (claim, evidence, reasoning), and ADI (argument driven inquiry) to these inspiring teachers that I have grown to admire and respect. Now, we share a constant dialogue of ideas (and sometimes just fun jokes) on Twitter and in our own private text chat.
I cannot wait to attend this year’s ChemEd conference hosted by North Central College in Naperville, IL. The conference runs from July 21st to July 25th. I am super excited to hear from plenary speakers Deborah Blum (writer of “The Poisoners Handbook” and “The Poison Squad”) and Theodore Gray (writer of “The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe,” “Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything,” and other works) because I have read and referenced their books in my chemistry classes. I am also planning to run the 6.02km Mole Run (maybe even reclaim my place as second female finisher), listen to Michael Offutt play his chemistry tunes at the Mole Breakfast, as well as attend excursions to Fermilab and Argonne Lab. But I am the most excited to visit old chemistry friends and make new ones!
So if you feel that can’t connect to like-minded teachers in your area, or have a network that is looking for more inspiration, consider attending ChemEd in Illinois. I invite you to visit me and other ChemEd X contributors at our booth in the exhibit hall, at our ChemEd X Symposium or just out and about as we attend presentations and engage in the social gatherings.