Cookbook to Inquiry....Another Attempt

device for hydrate experiment

There is a hydrate lab which is done by many teachers. Typically, students first use a known hydrate and are provided the formula.  As an example, they might use CuSO4. 5H2O.  On paper, they would work through the percent by mass of water in copper (II) sulfate pentahydrate.  They then would be given a mass of the copper (II) sulfate pentahydrate, calculate how much water they should lose and then they would heat it and compare the data with the calculated value.  Next, they are given an unknown hydrate.  They are also given the molar mass of the unknown salt of the hydrate and they have to calculate the molar ratio of salt to water based on their data.  Here is one possible way to “tweak” this lab.

Going from Cookbook to Inquiry...Messy but worth it.

Results from lab of Iron and copper(II) chloride.

We, as teachers, can see that life is sometimes like this and we care enough about our students that we want to try to prepare them for careers and problems that we can’t even imagine….because we believe that good education can empower people to go further and reach higher than they could ever dream….and maybe the journey we will  start together begins with a simple question in which the answer may not seem immediately obvious...and that is O.K….

Chem Ed 2015 ~ Conversations at Kennesaw State University

Chem Ed 2015 at KSU

What a mole-riffic time we are having here in Kennesaw, Georgia!  Some highlights from my time here include:

~ The very appropriate cooling towels (Chill-its) we (ChemEd X) handed out to folks who stopped by our table, ran the Mole Run, or we saw between sessions. Several teachers have been diving in to research how they work.  Chemistry in action!

A Post-Inquiry Activity: A Tiered Significant Figures Lesson

sig figs

Historically, my students report significant figures as one of the most confusing concepts in honors chemistry. My recent blog post described the process of transforming my introduction into an inquiry activity. I’ve also re-worked my practice activities to be more directed to specific student needs, more focused on spending time with small groups, and more dedicated to active learning. This four step tiered plan works for me.

The Only Thing Constant in Life is Change

Wow! Night one of the semester we did the activity Change You Can Believe In. It was my second time facilitating, so I did a much better job of directing students when they asked questions and it went much faster than last semester. I did still, as expected, have students that were frustrated. One student asked me point blank what the difference between physical and chemical changes is.

Making Measurement Meaningful or Why to Avoid Saying "Sig Figs" in Class.

Gluging in Class

Every year when the day came to discuss the rules for significant figures in measurements with my classes I would write the rules on the board, we’d work through a couple examples, and I’d try to find a way to explain why we needed to use them when reporting measurements.  This has never been my favorite topic to teach, mostly because I had a difficult time helping students see why these rules for measurement and reporting uncertainty were important.

To Inquiry or not to Inquiry . . .

Here is something to ponder as you think about your lab experiences this year:  I have been using an excellent inquiry lab for the past few years.  I think it does a fabulous job guiding the students through the amazing (yet often dull to students) world of specific heat equations and learning about calorimetry.  However, this semester, I returned to the old, traditional calorimetry lab.  I wan