Monday, August 4, 2014
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Congratulations to Rebecca Pempeck for her award winning illustrated poem! She entered in the "Chemists Celebrate Earth Day Illustrated Poem Contest" sponsored by the American Chemical Society. Rebecca is one of six of my students who submitted entries. The theme for the poetry contest was "The Wonders of Water". Rebecca earned second place for the Connecticut Valley regional competition. Her work will be entered into the national competition. All of their pieces are featured here.
|Rebecca Pempeck's Winning Poem!|
Friday, March 21, 2014
|Setting up the gas collection apparatus.|
|Making a prediction!|
Here's a group running their reaction.
|Waiting to see if the hydrogen will fill to the prediction mark.|
And here's what we did with the hydrogen gas at the end of the experiment.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
I’m struggling to make peace with phasing out class demonstrations. I am in the middle of the transition from a traditional classroom into a student-centered learning environment. This summer at ChemEd13 I realized that the quest for the perfect chemistry demo is outdated pedagogy that pays homage to the “Sage on the Stage” model of teaching. As I wrote in my first blog post, Dr. Shakhashiri opened my eyes to the wonderful world of chemistry demonstrations. Actually, adding class demonstrations to my lessons literally saved my teaching career in my second year. I dedicated the first year of this blog to documenting how I was implementing new class demos. Researching demos and learning new chemistry was very exciting for me as I wrote my first series of blog posts. Yet, now I feel frustrated by the class demo because my students are passively watching me “do science” for them.
Last week I spent a class period doing a series of demos as part of my chemical reactions unit. After a week in which my kids explored chemical reactions in the lab, I followed up with some “more exciting” reactions as a way of reviewing their understanding of predicting products and writing chemical equations. (This is the unit that I presented atChemEd13 in Waterloo this summer. My fellow chemistry teachers were excited by the lesson.) The class was going along as planned, my students were sitting around a central lab table, white boards and markers in hand. After every demo I performed, they wrote out the chemical reaction to describe what they saw. The eye-opening moment for me was the big finale during my B-block class. I decided to end the day with my “thermite two ways” demo. I took the class outside to watch the famous thermite reaction. There were plenty of oohhs andaahhhs at the awesome power of the thermite, the sparks flying, and the dripping molten iron. Then, I got out my rusty cannonballs (one wrapped in aluminum foil) and showed them “hand held” thermite. Banging the two cannonballs together produces a loud pop and sparks. After I got a good pop and some sparks, I passed the cannonballs to a student. That’s when the magic happened. My students got so energized by watching their classmates create the hand-held thermite reaction. Each successful bang was greeted with cheers and applause. One boy was crowned thethermite master; he forced some amazing blasts out of those two cannonballs. I walked away from this day smiling at the great enthusiasm the kids had during class. But, later that day, as I started reflecting on the lesson, it hit me like a ton of bricks; it only got exciting when the chemistry was in the students hands. I was reminded once again that learning happens when the students engage in the process.
The flipped classroom has changed everything for me. When I moved myself from the center of the stage, my goal shifted away from teaching the perfect lesson, and toward creating an engaging learning environment. I realized that kids don’t learn by watching me blow up things and light stuff on fire. Yes, I know it’s really fun for everyone, especially me, to do a big “tada” demo. I am the first to admit that I love demos. Yet, when I put learning as the central objective in my class, rather than performing, the outcome is unpredictable, rich, and sometimes magical.
Friday, September 27, 2013
|Heating baking soda using a gas collection apparatus.|
I found my inspiration for this experiment from the IPS book (Introductory Physical Science - 8th edition by Uri Haber-Schaim). The opening experiment in this inquiry-based physical science program is to heat baking soda. As I read through the teachers guide for more details, I came across this statement: "The original mass of baking soda doesn't matter, more baking soda will increase the volume of gas produced." That's when I decided to make this into a controlled experiment with an independent variable and dependent variable. This simple experiment can be easily manipulated to collect enough data to explore the relationship between the mass of baking soda used and the volume of gas produced.
On the first day of experiment, I taught all the students how to light and extinguish the Bunsen burner.
|Gas bubbles can be seen in the inverted bottle.|
|Each group used a different mass of baking soda in the second trial.|
I really enjoyed starting the year with this lab because it has so many introductory concepts all wrapped into one. The kids learned how to light the Bunsen burner, they designed and implemented a controlled experiment, they leaned how to measure the mass of a powder and the volume of a gas, they assembled apparatus to collect a gas, they plotted a graph of their data, and answered an experimental question. I call this a home run in the first week of chemistry class.
|A graph of my class data, not bad for the first experiment of the year.|
Friday, August 2, 2013
|The Generations Symposium Presenters|
|Micaela doing the Singing Flame Tube demo. It was a huge hit!|
|Charging the tube with rubbing alcohol.|
|Andy and his granddaughter doing a demo together.|
|Star Wars Re-enactment through chemistry demos|
|The Star Wars group had it all: flames, glowing reactions,|
hydrogen balloons, choreography and costumes!
Monday, July 29, 2013
|Let's face it, chemistry teachers are happiest in the lab!|
Today I taught a workshop for chemistry teachers at ChemEd13 on my favorite lab of the year: Classifying Chemical Reactions. This is a lab that I have adapted from a Flinn Scientific book; each year implementing small changes. In the latest edition I added instructional videos embedded into the lab handout for my students to watch while conducting the lab. This year I finally felt that the lab was "done enough" to present at ChemEd.
I had a good turnout of teachers for my workshop this morning, on Day 1! These enthusiastic teachers dove right into the lab. Once we finished the lab stations, I taught the group how to do a series of demonstrations that go along with the unit. I encouraged teachers to try the demos for the first time. Even Michaela, my new colleague, got into the act by performing the "Singing Flame Tube" demo today for the group. It was great fun to share some of my favorite chemical reactions here at ChemEd13. Thanks to the wonderful folks at the University of Waterloo for providing all the chemicals and equipment for my workshop.
ChemEd is a wonderful opportunity for chemistry teachers from all over the world to come together to share ideas and learn from each other. I love coming out for this fun conference because it's great to be around so many people who love to teach chemistry! One of my favorite parts of ChemEd is connecting with my chemistry friends. Here's a picture of my good friend Jean Hein during my first trip to ChemEd in Texas six years ago.
|These teachers are writing the chemical reaction for what they just saw.|
|His first time lighting the famous Whoosh Bottle demonstration|
|Learning how to do the classic "Death of a Gummy Bear" demo.|
|My new colleague, Micaela, burning magnesium ribbon.|
|Jean and I at ChemEd in 2007.|