Friday, September 25, 2015

Scenes from the Hood

I love taking pictures of my students working in the lab. I can't help myself. When the kids are really getting into an experiment I want to capture it. As soon as they start to work, I pull out my phone. This week I started a new series I'm calling "Scenes from the Hood". I decided to try to take pictures of my students doing lab work from the inside of the fume hood. I've had the hood in my room for only one year. It still feels like such a luxury item. The novelty has definitely not worn off yet. Why is ventilation a luxury item, you ask... Don't get me started! Let's just celebrate the fact that now I have it and I can do more interesting chemistry with my students because of it.

Ventilation in the chemistry lab is an important part of a safe environment. Keeping the air clear is a matter of personal care for a chemistry teacher and the students. As a teacher, I am in the lab at least 6 hours a day, compared to my students 80-minutes. I am so happy to have a safer work environment with proper ventilation in the lab. Anyone who doesn't have good ventilation, you can go to Flinn's safety training for a short video about the importance of ventilation that you can use to support your case with administrators.

This week my Chemistry Honors students did the Pomfret School classic: The Iron and Sulfur lab. It's an awesome start to our lab work because of the flames, the smells, the breaking of the glass test tube, hydrochloric acid, heating with the Bunsen burner, and iron filings/magnets. I can't think of any other lab that "has it all" like this one. Add to that the fact that they are all scared to do anything because of the lab safety talk, and you have a pretty memorable experience for the kids.

Here are my "Scenes from the Hood" shots for the week.
These two are watching the bubbles in the gas producing reactions of Fe and FeS with HCl.

Wafting the gas to observe the smell (rotten eggs comes to mind).

These girls are looking into the fume hood for inspiration.

I love the photos my students include in their lab reports, not to mention the ones that end up on Instagram and Facebook.

And what about all the other fun pics I took? Here are a few photos of my new students investigating the chemical and physical properties of iron and sulfur.

The nicest looking iron sulfide pellet of the week! 

Look at the glow of this chemical reaction.

And then the plunge into cold water to shatter the test tube. Awesome.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Highlights from Week One

Here are some scenes from my first week of school for 2015-2016. Selfies are a required part of Day One for each of my classes, along with a warning that they will all make the blog throughout the year.
Two of my AP chemistry students who are happy to identify the ions in their solution.
My AP chemistry class started off with the study of precipitation reactions. I thought this was a nice place to start to get them back into the practice of writing chemical formulas and balanced equations. They worked through their first POGIL from my new AP chemistry book from Flinn on net ionic equations. The week ended with a qualitative analysis experiment to identify ions in a solution. 

Rock band? No, my D-Block chemistry class with Tim Rose my co-teacher (the one with the beard).
In my Honors class, we started with some "real world" chemistry. I opened the week with a ChemMatters "Open for Discussion" article about caffeine. As part of the group discussion, I asked the students to propose an experiment to determine the amount of caffeine a type of food. I designed this question with a specific answer in mind. To my surprise and delight, the student in my class came up with a wide range of ideas for quantifying the amount of caffeine in a drink. I was reminded that prior knowledge is a valuable part of the learning process.
Two kids working together to write their first lab report in class using a shared Google Doc.

A serial dilution of food coloring, an analogy for the concentration of a contaminant in drinking water.
Another part of the week's homework was a reading about toxicity. I wanted to start off the year with a different perspective of the substances they encounter. LD-50 ratings of everyday substances, like water, make for an interesting calculations. It takes about 9 liters of water to kill the average 10th grader.

My AP Chemistry kids sporting our new goggles that I won at ChemEd.

F-Block chemistry is all smiles.
On a personal note, my oldest son started 9th grade this year at Pomfret School. After a long wait, he finally started classes this week. He had a good first week with his classes, but the highlight for him was the Outdoor Adventure team.
My baby boy starting high school this week at Pomfret School.
My husband and I work together at the school.  Brian is the AP and Honors physics teacher, making us one fourth of the science department here. Even though we work in the same department, he teaches in another building which prevents our paths from crossing much during the class day. Many of our students have us in back-to-back years in their science classes, and a few lucky kids have both of us in the same year. 
My husband and I make up 1/4th of the science department at Pomfret School! Day One was a family event.