In this blog post, I’ve asked Natalie about her journey as a woman of color along the path toward a future in a STEM field. I can’t begin to understand her perspective, so I’ve asked her to lend her voice to this issue. I believe it is important that we, as educators, take some time to reflect on what she has to say. Sometimes, the things we don’t say are resonating just as loudly as the things we do.
We had just had some snow days and I had the feeling that I was getting behind. In one class we were approaching the topic of orbital diagrams and electron configurations. I was tempted to just say, "Here are the notes." Sometimes there is nothing wrong with that. This time, something was eating at me. Instead I picked a POGIL (link is external) from the "High School Chemistry" (link is external) book that presented the ideas through guided inquiry.
Have you ever wondered what is the theoretically largest possible value for the atomic number of an element? Using some introductory physics and algebra, you can get your students thinking about this idea.
This year my students experienced something a little new to them on the Chemistry Olympiad. It was a question about the crystal structure of a mineral. I have not been teaching the “unit cell” concept in great detail and started to reevaluate my unit on liquids and solids. This question has been appearing on the semifinal exam of the Chemistry Olympiad for a few years but not the local exam until this year. I actually like it when something like this happens. It allows me to reevaluate what I am teaching in class, provides me an opportunity to learn new things, and brings new material into my curriculum.
I run an after school STEM club that involves many projects and activities. Students build robots for FIRST Robotics, race RC cars, use 3D printers, and build underwater vehicles. They dissect specimens, and create biodiesel from vegetable oil. So why would I bring this up on the Chemed Xchange? Our science club does chemistry activities, we are an ACS Chem Clubs(link is external), but I think there are many other benefits to this kind of club. Here are a few:
You can perform an orange to black chemistry demonstration using materials commonly found in stores. The reaction appears to be similar to the Old Nassau reaction, but uses greener reagents. This is a great demonstration to do around Halloween time.
Does the phrase “Especially for High School Teachers” ring a bell? Journal of Chemical Education readers may remember this feature from past issues. Could it be time for its return, with a twist?
Common drain cleaners consist of water, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and sodium hydroxide (base) and/or potassium hydroxide (base). Bases are caustic (caustic loosely means to gnaw or eat away at) and can cause corrosion in metal pipes. Wouldn’t you know, our house has PVC piping through the fixtures that dump into a 45 year old cast iron pipe. The cast iron pipe is old and currently shows signs of surface rust and corrosion to the point where the pipe appears to be leaking then sealing itself in several spots. Not to mention the interior of the cast iron pipe may not be completely open, thus, not permitting a fast flow in drainage. Good news: a home warranty is being taken advantage of to hopefully replace the cast iron pipe with a PVC pipe.