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.
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
This month I spoke with Brian Brethauer who teaches chemistry and coaches Science Olympiad among other science activities on the west side if Michigan. Here are his responses to the 4 questions.
Q1: How do you define inquiry? What does inquiry look like to you?
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 attended and presented at the National AP Conference in Las Vegas on July 18th and 19th! Adding Inquiry to the course is one of the major changes to how we will teach AP Chemistry. I shared some resources and gave tips during my presentation. I am sharing those resource in this post. I am also sharing items that I found especially helpful from presentations that I attended and conversations I had with other teachers.
Inquiry is a fluid concept. There are some truly fabulous activities on Grand Valley State University's Target Inquiry (TI) website (www.gvsu.edu/targetinquiry). Yes, I am biased as I was part of the first TI cohort, but there are several labs now that were written later and they, too, are terrific.
At NSTA (in beautiful San Antonio, Texas), this past week, I shared activities designed to explore three levels of representation AND provide formative assessment techniques to reveal student misconceptions. All of the activities shared have been featured in the Journal of Chemical Education or have been linked to research articles in JCE as supporting information.
Moles, mole ratios and stoichiometry have been frustrating topics for many of my chemistry students. The MOLE and Avogadro’s number get tangled up in other Chemistry jargon and students have stared at me like I am speaking another language. I have been around long enough to know this is a problem that many of us have faced. I have tried many ideas that have helped and I want to share a few.
Whenever possible, I try to begin a topic with something my students are familar with. For the introduction of Percent Composition in my general chemistry course, I brought in bags of Oreo cookies. Seeing the bags upon entering class was a great attention getter. If you are looking for ways to add more inquiry to your chemistry course, this a an example of how you can experiment with giving up a little control. Try it and see how it goes.