Monday, January 2, 2017

December NEACT Meeting: a Fresh Look at the Atomic Model

Teachers from CT, MA, VT, and RI came together today to discuss/explore the atomic model.
Twenty teachers from around New England gathered at the Woodstock Academy chemistry lab for a morning of atomic model discussion. Emily Allen Hoffman from Boston University kicked off the program with insights into student misconceptions concerning the atomic model from her research. Emily’s presentation was an excellent reminder for all of us just how difficult it is to teach the atomic model. Over the course of two years Emily interviewed Boston University chemistry students about their understanding of the atomic model. Her research showed that students who have exposure to a wide range of visual and graphical models to depict the atom are better able to move past their misconceptions and communicate effectively their understanding of the atom.
Emily Allen Hoffman from BU presented her findings about students' misconceptions.
As part of her doctoral work, Emily developed a series of lessons for the BU chemistry students to use concurrently with their regular course work. The students who had access to these interactive lessons, which include interactive models and demonstrations, were more successful in the course and gained a more complete understanding of the atomic model.
Emily asked the teachers to draw an atom.
The teachers at the workshop engaged in a lively discussion about the challenges we all encounter when teaching this abstract concept to students. We all agreed that the misconceptions Emily uncovered in college students were present in our classrooms in high school and middle school science. Armed with more ideas and resources, we all got a boost of energy for tackling the atomic model with our students.
We all need to remind ourselves how hard it is to teach the atomic model.
In the second half of the morning, Carline Chute and Mel Gronski from Woodstock Academy shared several hands-on activities that they do with their students. The activities included "atomic bowling", building models with Legos, Build an Atom Phet simulation, and an atomic model web-quest. After a demonstration of each activity from Caroline and Mel, the teachers had the chance to try out the activities and discuss how to adapt them to their own classrooms. Every participant left the workshop with ideas and activities to implement immediately in their own classroom.
Caroline explaining how she uses physical objects like legos to help students visualize the atomic model

Mel is explaining how she uses a WebQuest with her students

Atomic bowling is a fun analogy for the Rutherford gold foil experiment.

These teachers are exploring the PhET app on the iPad.

Teachers from all phases of their career came together today to discuss teaching chemistry.

The best part about NEACT meeting is meeting new chemistry teachers.

Trying out the "Build an Atom" PhET simulation for iPad.
Emily and Caroline are two of my favorite people, what a joy to have them in the same room for the morning!

Another look at the group of enthusiastic chemistry teachers at the Dec. 3 NEACT meeting at Woodstock Academy.