high school chemistry

Thank you "Lady from Texas"


I need to thank a lady from Texas. We had just finished the classification of matter and I have always wanted to follow up with a distillation. I have talked about it and once I even got some extremely expensive glassware that I carefully set up, managed to break by third bell and really ticked off the AP teacher. At Chem Ed 2015, a teacher from Texas showed me this quick and dirty way to do a distillation that the kids can do. First, let me say that this is not my idea. I forgot her name. "Lady from Texas", let me just say "thank you". If you are reading this, please shoot me an email and I will be more than happy to give you credit. It worked really well.

“In the Lab before Christmas” – A Chemical Demonstration and Education Show

In the Lab Before Christmas Title Screen

Most chemical educators will agree that exciting demonstrations are excellent motivators to create interest in science. They are also a way to create interest in the community, motivate the student-demonstrators, and perhaps to make a little money to support special activities of an ACS Chem Club. Chemical demonstration shows, organized around holidays or other special occasions have a long and honored history.  Pacifica High School (Garden Grove, CA) took its inspiration from the lecture-demonstrations of Michael Faraday, given during the Christmas holidays of 1860-61. (The Chemical History of A Candle).

So I wrote this project for my students - now what? Part 2: The group contract

group contract

Have you ever worked with someone on a project and you couldn’t get a hold of them? Or you realized, a bit too late, that they need extra reminders to get stuff done? Oh, and by the way, how did that guy get to be in charge? As adults, we can probably remember more than one situation where this has happened. Maybe it was in school, maybe it’s in your job.

Dilemma: How do we prepare new chemistry teachers for the 21st century classroom?

Which Way

“I wish I knew then what I know now.” How often do you reflect on your first year of teaching? When I run into a student from my first few years, I catch myself hiding behind a clothes rack or ducking down the frozen food aisle. I’m embarrassed.

What Not To Do Lab

What Not To Do Lab

During the first week of school, I welcome my students to the What Not To Do Lab. The PDF is available for free at the Laboratory Safety Institute website. I use the cartoon activity to review their Safety Contract handout from the night before (I use the one from FLINN Scientific). With more than 30 safety violations shown, the cartoon serves as a great ice breaker as I have each student introduce themselves and then list a safety infraction being shown on the cartoon.

Time required: 

This can be completed easily within a 50 min class period.

Lab Report Feedback, Part 1: Using Drawboard PDF on a Tablet to Provide Feedback on Student Labs

Throughout my 21 previous years as a teacher, I have really struggled to provide meaningful (and timely!) feedback to my students on their lab reports. Teaching IB Chemistry has really forced me to get better - and I have. Yet I still feel like this is an area for more improvement.I've got a series of blog posts planned to share some ideas with you - and hopefully garner some discussion that will be helpful for me also! First I'd like to share the mechanics of how I provide feedback.