Electrifying Chemistry

April 16, 2012 at 6:47 AM 1 comment

Overwhelm is the enemy of action.

That’s how I was/am feeling, faced with one of the most lab-intense part of the 8th grade physical science curriculum.

I sure would like to make your experience better than that – manageable enough that you will be willing to do lots of labs around this important topic. Important because they are so important in our world, and because they hit the essence of what ‘chemistry’ means to most students – these are the labs that get talked about from sibling to sibling, what I get asked about at the start of the school year.

So here’s how I started, so simple but so hard to do –

1. Read the damn standards, the text chapter and what you/your colleagues did last year. Like my camera manual, hate doing that. But must. Note what you DON’T have to cover as well as what you do. Allows for depth on concepts needed and reduces student overwhelm with too much information on too many topics. Specially important at this crunch time of year, coming up on the state tests.

2. This is a great stage to collaborate. Much better than throwing worksheets at each other passing through to borrow the alligator clips.

3. They’ll tell you to do ‘backward planning’ here. Write the test first, based on what you want them to know/be able to do. And we should, really. But, oops, running straight into the unit doing the best we can with what’s right in front of us. Next year.

On reflection, want them to be able to wire a circuit safely, solve practical problems and be self starting. Understand conductivity in solids and liquids,  what ions are, and applications of electrochemistry. Boom.

4. Gather worksheets, lab ideas etc.: See stuff here 🙂 , and check out YouTube for ideas and sometimes for clips to show the kids. (Stuff like how to make a battery from nickels, pennies and salt water-soaked paper towel stacks… how fun!) Weed through them and tweak to fit what sounds like fun for your students, manageable for you, and that teaches key concepts and skills.

5. Make a shopping and searching list. Rove hungrily around your science department asking people for what you need. (Electro chemistry f-s up equipment so plan on buying your own stuff when possible, or buying replacement leads, alligator clips and power supplies.) At the end of some of these student sheets are teacher notes with equipment lists.

6. Try the experiments and demos yourself in the privacy of your lab BEFORE hurting yourself or your pride in front of the kids. So, so much less stressful. Good way to catch safety issues too.

7. Figure out the safety issues Like um, wear protective glasses when handling copper sulfate, vinegar etc. (This was note to self – remembered at the last minute before kids walked in). Read the chemical warning labels and don’t pour toxins down the sink. Save them in a sealed container in your locked toxins cupboard and dispose of at the hazardous waste site at the dump. Your district should do this for you. And use kitchen chemicals/less toxic alternatives when you can, to reduce hazards further.

8. Figure out materials management. In general, don’t issue equipment before they will use it – it gets fiddled with and broken otherwise. The way I do it is to have a central dispensing station for chemicals/ test materials. Have the hardware for the circuits etc. in boxes for each table. Have a few extras of everything.

Here’s the flow I used for electrochemisty:

1. Conductivity of a variety of easily available, relatively non-toxic elements. Nice link to physical properties and leads from the organization of the periodic table. 12.Conductivity of Elements

2. Conductivity of liquids including ionic salt solutions and covalent liquids like alcohol. Concept of ions flows from atomic theory. Teacher’s notes at the end of the student sheets. 1. Electricity and Chemical Reactions


3. Do it yourself copper plating 1b Copper Plate Challenge+ a short powerpoint on applications of electrochemistry.2. Electricity and Chemical Reactions Electrochemistry PDF

4. Electrolysis of water and a start on how to balance chemical equations. 3. Electrolysis and Chemical Equations

Very short. Very fun. No blindings, electrocutions or poisonings so far.

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Entry filed under: Atoms and Elements, Chemical Reactions, Chemistry topics, Class Management. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, but how do you get started with Project Based Learning? Handling Hydrogen: Kabooms without Killing your Class.

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