hands-on learning

Developing a Cooking Chemistry Elective

To squash any misconceptions, I would like to say first and foremost I am not a great cook. My husband graciously does most of the cooking in our house. However, as a chemist, I am fascinated by the complex reactions involved in everyday life. Pair this curiosity with the requirement to teach an elective, and the Chemistry of Cooking elective was born.

Hydrate Labs, Microscale Chemistry and Cage Fighting....

For years my students would heat the hydrates in glassware, burn themselves, break the glassware and splatter salts and thus their data, all over the lab bench. A few years ago Bob Worley came up with a great microscale technique. Essentially, it takes a used bottle cap without the plastic and this is used as the dish. Next, there is about a three inch machine screw that goes through a drilled hole in the cap. A nut is placed on the screw to hold everything in place and cheap pliers are used to hold the entire assembly over the flame.

Kool-aid, Cotton, and Intermolecular Forces

Red dye #40 found in strawberry Kool-Aid and various cloth fibers can be used in a very simple experiment that can teach students about intermolecular forces. A video is included that describes the experiment and analysis of results. 

Titration of an Esterification Reaction to Determine Equilibrium Constant

This activity was submitted for a 2016 ChemEd X Call for Contributions soliciting input regarding the big ideas being put forth by organizations like AP. The author shares a lab activity that relies on connections - between stoichiometry, esterification, equilibrium, kinetics, titrations and uncertainty of calculations. He also shares the resources he created. 

“The Candle Experiment” – an Opening Exercise for General (or introductory) chemistry

This exercise is intended as an ice-breaker for a first or second class meeting. It also serves as an introduction to physical & chemical properties and application of the macro/micro/symbolic representations of chemical phenomena. Finally, it also provides a framework to mention many of the topics to be covered in a general chem first semester course.

First Day of Chemistry: The Banning of Caffeine and Making Gummy Worms

The first day of school for me has always been daunting for my new students (in AP chemistry, where I know the kids, it’s so much easier). I want my students to know the following: -Who is this tiny person who looks like a teenager (that’d be ME, folks)? Where did she come from and why is she teaching us? -What does chemistry look like?

Representing Molecules

A quick search on Amazon for a package of 144 ping pong balls and a trip to the arts and crafts store for paint, magnets, and glue and I was ready to start making my own class set of model kits.

Balancing Equations with Molecular Models

I am a very firm believer that the world of physical science can be visualized and is an excellent medium for teaching students to model and to picture what happens at the molecular level. The first topic we decided to explore was balancing chemical equations. This seems like such a simple topic to chemistry teachers but I have found that it can be quite challenging for many of my inner city students. The first thing they ask me for is a list of rules that they can follow. We can discuss the problems of algorithmic teaching in a later post! For the time being let’s talk about how to get students to understand why they need to balance equations and discuss what we can call “Conservation of Atoms”.