I am honored for the invitation to write for ChemEd X and am looking forward to being part of this collaborative chemistry teaching community! I’m Shelly Belleau, a Chemistry and Physics teacher in Colorado.
I attended 5th grade camp with my son, Stevie, this week. Camp Miniwanca is a beautiful property between the vastness of Lake Michigan and a much smaller inland Stony Lake. The program is based upon the "experiential learning cycle". Small groups of campers work through a series of challenges. The counselors and chaperones allow the children to struggle, disagree and fail. Of course, success is congratulated and enjoyed. Children choose their own goals for individual challenges, so they have an opportunity to strive for their "best self" and meeting or exceeding whatever goal they have made is celebrated. Children were given many team and individual responsibilities. Every part of the day at camp had a purpose. Stevie is the youngest of my children. I have chaperoned several camps before and I attended a few as a child myself and one as an adult participant. This one was by far the best run camp I have attended. Many camps give lip service to experiential learning, but the thing that I observed at Camp Miniwanca that impressed me was there attentiveness to the entire process of the experiential learning cycle.
I’m looking forward to this year’s National Chemistry Week even more than usual. The 2014 theme “The Sweet Side of Chemistry” offers an opportunity to share the chemistry of candy, a super high-interest topic.
Here’s a great project to try with your students: build a periodic table out of Lego blocks. We did this a few years ago at Spring Arbor University, working with teachers and students from Hardin Valley Academy i
Earth Day is just around the corner. If you are looking for some ideas to highlight environmental issues, the Journal of Chemical Education is offering free access to many articles and activities that you will find interesting. Check them out!