One of my goals for 2017 was to read more chemistry non-fiction. I accomplished that with three and a half books read. That doesn't seem like much, but given how busy I've been lately it was quite an accomplishment! I offer a brief review of my most recent book here, "The Alchemy of Air" by Thomas Hager.
Erica Jacobsen shares highlights from the August 2017 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education that are of special interest to high school chemistry teachers.
A classroom activity to demonstrate the principles of chemical kinetics and equilibria and the utility of the mole concept is described here. The activity involved no hazardous materials or complex equipment and can be enjoyed and appreciated by general studies students as well as chemistry majors.
I recently watched a video in which a chemist (who goes by the nickname “NurdRage”) activated a chemiluminescent reaction by vapor deposition. I wanted to try it out for myself! Unfortunately, oxalyl chloride is toxic, corrosive, and a lachrymator. Thus, the experiment conducted by NurdRage needs to be conducted in a hood, and it is not particularly amenable to simple presentations. I began to wonder how I could create this vapor activated chemiluminescence using simple materials.
As part of a two-week Chemistry Modeling Workshop™ in Houston, TX, I had the opportunity to read the Journal of Chemical Education article “When Atoms Want” by Vicente Talanquer of the University of Arizona. I researched Dr. Talanquer and discovered he created a collection of simulations called Chemical Thinking Interactives (CTI). These digital tools illustrate many chemistry topics with a focus on the particulate nature of matter.
I think this experiment provides a fantastic vehicle to involve students of all ages in small, hands-on and exploratory research projects. Like many others, my students and I have investigated various aspects of this interesting fountain.
I recently stumbled upon this article and it is a super handy resource for kinetics labs (and a nice review of Analytical courses from my college days).
Chemical kinetics is one of the five challenge areas in AP Chemistry. My students and I have been working our way through one of the teaching and learning activities called Concentration vs. Time. The graphical analysis, guided-inquiry questions, and application to past and future content are seriously challenging, and my students report higher levels of understanding than in past semesters.
I taught my students how to use the method of initial rates. I taught my students rate laws. However, they strugged to differentiate when to use what method. Upon further probing, they struggled to articulate why one might use one method over the other. They could parrot back some ideas ("The rate law tells you about the particles involved in the rate determining step of the reaction."), but I wasn't convinced of mastery and connections.
In one of my last blog posts I wrote of how I sometimes enjoy ending a unit with a series of demonstrations and using them to elicit a dialog between the students and myself to check for understanding. It is always a fascinating experience to hear the misconceptions that many students have the day before the test.