Form & Function

Water Filtration

In this Activity, students make a water filtration column using a 2-liter plastic beverage bottle that contains layers of gravel, sand, and activated charcoal. They prepare a contaminated sample of water and examine the filtration ability of the column. This environmental chemistry Activity can be used to complement a celebration of Earth Day.

Fun with Fingerprints: Cyanoacrylate Fuming

In this Activity, students develop fingerprints using the cyanoacrylate fuming method on different types of surfaces. They investigate the technique’s effectiveness and test the effects of changing the temperature and humidity of the fuming chamber.

Checkerboard Chromatography

In this Activity, column chromatography separations are simulated using a grid, colored paper squares, and a six-sided die. Students observe the effects of changing flow rate, column length, and mobile phase composition. As squares come off the grid, the separation (or lack thereof) of the colors is noticeable.

That's the Way the Ball Bounces (or Is It?)

In this Activity, students investigate the physical properties of different balls that may look similar, but have very different rebound properties. Students also investigate how the rebound properties change when the balls are subjected to near freezing and near boiling temperatures. This Activity could be used at the beginning of the school year as an exercise in making observations.

A Magnetic Meal

In this Activity, students make slurries of breakfast cereal and water and use a magnetic wand to collect elemental iron filings that are present in some cereals. They determine the mass of iron collected and then calculate the "recommended daily allowance" (RDA) in each cereal. An extension uses qualitative tests to confirm that the material collected is actually iron.

I Screen, You Screen, We All Screen for Phenolics

In this Activity, students use a colorimetric visualization test to screen grape juice for phenolic content. Students use the test to examine differences in phenolic content of juices prepared with different processing methods. Most of the materials are readily available at the supermarket.

Flame Tests: Which Ion Causes the Color?

In this Activity, students perform simple flame tests using eleven commercially available compounds, cotton swabs, and a Bunsen burner. They then determine whether the cations or anions in each compound are responsible for the flame test colors. This Activity introduces students to flame tests in an inquiry-based manner.

Color My Nanoworld

This Activity introduces students to the unique properties of nanoscale materials through exploration of size-dependent optical properties of gold nanoparticles. Students first prepare a solution of gold nanoparticles. They then investigate the solution’s use as an electrolyte sensor by adding a non-electrolyte and a strong electrolyte, and observing any resulting color changes.

The Nature of Hydrogen Bonding

In this Activity, students build models of polarized water molecules using K’nex toy components and adhesive Velcro. Students investigate hydrogen bonding by shaking the models in various ways. They observe the resulting interactions and relate their observations to physical states of water and the difference between strong bonds and weak attractions.

Garbage Juice: Waste Management and Leachate Generation

In this Activity, students use multi-colored breakfast cereal and liquid to model the concepts of leachate and leaching from municipal solid waste disposed of in a landfill. Students create a modern landfill model with the same material. This environmental chemistry Activity can be used to complement a celebration of Earth Day.