Crime Chemistry

This year’s National Chemistry Week (NCW) crime-based theme of “Solving Mysteries Through Chemistry” captured everyone’s interest! Our ChemClub is part of Prince of Peace, a K through 12 Catholic school on the Mississippi River, in Clinton, Iowa. With all grades located in the same building, the elementary students were able to come to the science lab for NCW. It was a chance for them to wear goggles and be crime detectives. They did tests with fiber, fingerprints, and blood. My students discovered that they like teaching!

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The Best of ChemMatters: By Teachers, For Teachers

When I was a new teacher I was continually scrambling for good sources of lesson plans. Our textbook and lab materials were only marginally adequate, so I was forced to look for supplements. Going to meetings and conventions always provided an idea or too. But far and away my most valuable source for teaching ideas was my teaching colleagues.best-of-chemmatters

Given the continuing challenge of finding quality lessons to use in our chemistry classrooms, the timing for the publication of The Best of ChemMatters: Connecting Science and Literacy couldn’t be better. This is especially true as a result of increased expectations to teach literacy as part of our regular science instruction.

This book is a publication of the American Chemical Society Education Division that includes 12 lesson plans for high school science teachers that are based on articles from ChemMatters magazine that were highly rated by readers. Each lesson is designed to help students understand chemistry concepts and improve their science literacy, critical thinking and reading comprehension.

One of the best things about ChemMatters articles is the level of the writing, which is always aimed specifically at high school students. The writers keep in mind the amount of science a typical chemistry student might know and fashion stories around it. Another goal for each ChemMatters story is to relate academic chemistry to what happens in our everyday lives. The Best of ChemMatters accomplishes this and more. The lessons for each article have been carefully crafted by teachers like us. Each lesson:

  • Uses the popular Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate (5E) guided inquiry model.
  • Connects to standards, includes objectives, assessments, possible students preconceptions, lesson outlines, anticipation guides, reading guides and a wealth of related resources.
  • Serves as a springboard for teachers to implement ideas and create lesson plans to help students understand chemistry concepts.

ChemClubs can use the Best of ChemMatters in support of special club activities. You might base a visit to a local elementary school on one of the lessons and use the materials and resources in the lesson to train your students before the presentation. Or, perhaps you might use some of the discussion materials to conduct a mini-seminar for ChemClub members at one of your meetings. A mini-seminar could help enhance the regular learning going on in your classroom with a sort of supercharged homework session.

However you use the Best of ChemMatters, it is sure to be a valuable resource. We would like to hear how you might use this book or get feedback on how you have used it with your ChemClub or regular classes. The book is now available for purchase at the ACS online store.

Halloween Chemistry

halloween-1486549_1280Halloween Chemistry and Mole Day are rising to the top of the most visited list on the ACS ChemClub Activities page. It must be October! If you haven’t visited the page before, ChemClubs offers a new Activity of the Month, well… every month. Each Activity collection focuses on a particular theme. For example, the latest topic is Makeup, Tattoos, and Hair. Each theme has a curated list of links. We comb the web for experiments, demonstrations, informational sites, and videos related to the month’s theme, then categorize and collect them with brief descriptions. ChemClubs also archives past Activity of the Month pages. The Halloween Chemistry and Mole Day pages are typically among the most popular during this time of year.

Mole Day may be over for the year, but bookmark the page for ideas for 2017. There’s still time to use the Halloween collection to get ideas for adding some creepy chemistry and spooky science to your day.

Some things you’ll find on the Halloween Chemistry Activity of the Month page:

  • Looking to make chemistry your Halloween wardrobe of choice? Take a look at the Costumes tab for ideas on masquerading as your favorite element or compound.
  • One link in the Body Parts tab suggests giving a classic demonstration a Halloween twist. You could probably dig up the materials at your house right now. Fill a plastic zip-seal bag with water, add red food coloring, and seal to create a bag of blood. Then, stab through the bag with skewers or sharpened pencils. The bag won’t leak due to the structure of the polymers that make up the bag.
  • Dry ice is indispensable for a bubbling cauldron effect. But, it can also be used to create a crystal ball filled with a swirling fog of the future. Look for the Boo Bubbles link in the Dry Ice tab. I’ve used the homemade container featured in the Sick Science! video at the link with kid-crowd-pleasing results.

There’s lots more to explore. Take a look at this Halloween collection or a different Activity of the Month new or old.

ACS Webinar: Resources for National Chemistry Week

ACS recently developed a web seminar that took place September 15, 2016 on the NSTA Learning Center. The presenters were Erica Jacobsen, a chemical education consultant who develops materials for the American Chemical Society and Rachel Murillo, teacher of forensic science and anatomy/physiology at McBride High School in Long Beach, California.Cover Solving Mystery

This web seminar is in support of this years celebration of National Chemistry Week (NCW) celebration and its theme of Solving Mysteries Through Chemistry. NCW is an annual event that connects American Chemical Society (ACS) members with their community, schools, and others to share the importance of chemistry in everyday life.

The co-presenters shared resources useful for NCW, for integrating forensics into classroom curriculum, and for informal presentations to share science. ChemClub advisors will find ready-to-use demonstrations, lab investigations, videos, background information, and more. Although the resources presented focused on the middle school and high school levels, many can be adapted to earlier grade levels.

View the web seminar at the NSTA webinar archive site.To view the presentation slides from the web seminar and related resources, visit the NSTA resource collection.