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.

That One Student

Science_Carnival_4

The first group of kids just left the building, and I wait patiently for the next group of second and third graders to enter. It’s a chance to think, a chance to reflect on what I’ve attempted to teach and how the kids reacted. I oftentimes wonder if anything that I say is transferred, if any of the students understand.

Maybe I could have worded that better.

This thought always races through my head, as I’m constantly looking for a better way to teach to reach more kids. I change my wording this time. Better?

Continue reading “That One Student”

3rd Grade Students Learn About the Chemistry of Polymers

ACES team: Cameron, Kyle, Seth, Christian, Kyle, Mike, Brandon, Madison and Ashley
ACES team: Cameron, Kyle, Seth, Christian, Kyle, Mike, Brandon, Madison and Ashley

In Fall 2014, Tanque Verde High School ChemClub members had an opportunity to work with 3rd grade students in our school district presenting activities about polymers provided by the American Chemical Society. We were assigned to a specific 3rd grade teacher at two elementary schools in Tucson, Ariz. (Aqua Caliente Elementary School and Tanque Verde Elementary School). For some of our veteran ChemClub members it was a second chance to work with elementary school kids.

It took us two weeks to build kits for the students to use during the outreach, as well as to practice our presentation. Most of the ideas were from the “Jiggle Gels” guide, but we included an activity to illustrate cross-linking and expanded the demo to show the making of artificial snow.

TVHS_9Everyone was expecting us at the elementary schools. Kids were very excited seeing us with the boxes full of materials and could not wait for us to start. In all of the excitement, lots of water got spilled on the tables. Luckily we were prepared and brought additional supplies with us!

Sodium Polyacrylate Polymer

Kids were completely stunned by the first demonstration where the water poured into a series of cups seemed to disappear when the cups were inverted. The students were even more interested in this demo when we showed them how properties of sodium polyacrylate polymer made this possible. It was a very good opening to the outreach presentation because this demo caught the students’ attention and made them want to experiment with that substance.

They really liked working with pipets and studying the properties of the sodium polyacrylate polymer.

Artificial Snow

TVHS_12For our next demo, we made artificial snow. That was a big hit! Everyone was fascinated with it, many saying things like “Wow! It even feels cold and wet like snow” and one student even tried to make off with a handful of the snow before we caught him.

Gro-Dinosaurs

Distributing the Gro-Dinosaurs for a graphing activity was a good break for the kids because they could remove their goggles for a while. But no one complained when we told them to put the goggles back on. They were so excited to make slime!

Super Slime

For the Super Slime activity most of students handled the pipet and borax solutions very well and had no trouble deciding quickly who would stir and who would add the solution. They loved the slime they had created and we could barely get some of them to divide it and store it in plastic bags so they could take it home later.

Cross-Linking Activity

To help 3rd graders to understand how slime is made, we had a cross-linking activity. We had volunteers to wear green tags with “X-link” written on them. All other students made chains by holding hands, and the kids with the cross-link tags were grabbing to the chains.

TVHS_3

Water, Pencils and a Plastic Bag

During the final demo we compared two plastic bags made of different polymers. Kids couldn’t believe that the PVA plastic was dissolving in water. Then we put water into a regular plastic bag to show them that it had different properties. We did this by poking sharp pencils into the bag, but this plastic is so elastic the holes made by the pencils didn’t leak. I had to refrain from laughing when almost every single kid flinched as the presenter stabbed the first pencil through the water filled bag. To be completely honest, I was actually silently praying that the bag wouldn’t rip and spill all over the floor. By the looks of him, the student presenting this was thinking the same thing.

Reactions

Our students reacted enthusiastically to every part of our presentation, and their comments were the best part of the day. We kept the students engaged with jokes and hands-on demonstrations, both of which they loved. One student cheered “You guys are the most awesome people! You do all the cool stuff!” and another proclaimed “I love chemistry!” I am particularly fond of the second comment, because the girl and many of her peers were taking a genuine interest in chemistry. When we asked “Do you guys want to know how slime works?” the class shouted their approval. The participation was amazing. Whenever we asked a question, nearly everyone raised his or her hand with a grin and enthusiastic expressions. Even as their eagerness peaked, they remained respectful and followed our directions. We kept things interesting, and they did not dare turn away from us because they truly wanted to do more, and know more about what they were doing. Even beyond that, they wanted us to come back because they wanted to know even more about chemistry and what we could do with it.

TVHS_6My favorite part of this activity was working with the students and being able to see their reactions. One student even asked me an in-depth question about the workings of chemistry, which was very exciting to see in someone so young. I loved being able to see how enthusiastic these young students were about learning about chemistry.

During the cleanup, one of the boys walked up to me and asked “Are you going to be here every day?” I was caught off guard and had to ask “Do you mean for the rest of the year?” He nodded eagerly and I, myself, was disappointed to tell him we weren’t. After he sat at his desk a girl came up to me and said “I hope you come back next year! This is really fun.” I couldn’t help but grin and assured her that we’d be back.

I have discovered that third-graders can be surprising in what they do and do not know, so presenters should be prepared for both insights and unexpected questions. I’ve had a great time and could see the enjoyment in the kids. I hope that one day, they follow with the foundations we laid for them and join the ChemClub themselves!

TVES team: Madisyn, Casey, Christa, Steven, Alexa, Eddie, Sean, Tim and Alec
TVES team: Madisyn, Casey, Christa, Steven, Alexa, Eddie, Sean, Tim and Alec

Celebrating Planet Earth

PR_TAT-Earth_08

The planet Earth is our shared home with a vast number of other living organisms, so it is humanity’s duty to try to conserve it the best we can. To promote awareness of the necessity of keeping our planet healthy, people around the world celebrate Earth Day annually on April 22. In celebration of this ideal to keep our planet clean, chemists from all around the island of Puerto Rico gathered in El Paseo de La Princesa, in Old San Juan, San Juan, to highlight “The Wonders of Water,” this year’s American Chemical Society (ACS) Chemists Celebrate Earth Day theme.

Members of different ACS clubs throughout the island got together and prepared more than 20 tables with exhibits and demonstrations involving the physical and chemical properties of water, as well as explaining the importance it has not only for us humans, but for every other living being on our planet. Natives, tourists, and club members all had the chance to participate.

Students from the Specialized School in Science and Math Thomas Armstrong Toro in Ponce couldn’t miss this amazing opportunity. Ten students from the school’s ChemClub set up and helped at the school’s table, explaining the experiments and demonstrations. The explanations were fitted to the audience, from explaining to children how water and oil “don’t get along” to discussing cohesion and adhesion with advanced participants. It was also imperative that the students spoke both English and Spanish, allowing them to communicate efficiently with not only the natives, but tourists from other countries as well.

Three demonstrations that stood out were:

Surface tension

Participants were urged to attempt to float a paper clip in a cup of water. A few were able to achieve this. Here a student explained how best to do it, as well as how the liquid is able to keep the paper clip afloat.

Oil and water

Oil and water were put in a clear glass and food coloring was added. After this, an Alka-Seltzer tablet was placed in it. In the water, the tablet reacted to produce carbon dioxide gas. Bubbles of carbon dioxide gas carried droplets of water upward through the oil, producing an effect like a lava lamp. Children were urged to take home a small test tube with the mix with their parents’ permission. A version of this activity is online at Lava Lamp.

Soft and hard water

The procedure was to mix water with magnesium sulfate in a water bottle, leave another water bottle full of water intact, and then add dishwashing soap to both. The participants were asked if, after shaking the bottles vigorously, they knew which water was the hard water. Many noticed how the softer water had much more bubbles than the hard one.

The conservation of planet Earth should be one of the most important things on our agenda these days, as each day pollution worsens the situation for everyone. We all have to remember that our one little drop of water can make an enormous difference in a sea of people, and we can all contribute to a better world, one way or another.

Put the Fun First! Ideas for a First ChemClub Meeting

First days of school are popping up all over the place. ChemClubs are getting back in the swing of things too, as members start to get together again for the 2014–2015 school year. Need some inspiration and ideas for your first meeting? Looking for a different activity or two to get students fired up for the year? Here’s a few to get your creative chemistry juices flowing as you plan for meetings.

Students make lemonade to learn about reactions.

Taste the sweet side of chemistry.

Try this “Sweet Lemonade” recipe from the ACS ChemClub Cookbook, submitted by the club from Springbrook High School, Silver Spring, MD. Fill a cup ~3/4 full of cold water. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Add 4 spoonfuls of sugar and stir. Take a sip. How sweet does it taste? Stir in an additional tablespoon of lemon juice. Try another sip. How does the sweetness change? When the second tablespoon is added, the acid in the lemon juice is more effective at separating the saccharides in the sugar (splitting the 12-carbon sucrose into two 6-carbon sugars), thus making it taste sweeter than when you added sugar to the first portion of lemon juice.

Chill out with chemistry.

Make ice cream in a bag as you explore freezing point depression. One hands-on activity is at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scrumptious-science-making-ice-cream-in-a-bag/. Then, follow up with the ChemMatters article “Ice, Cream… and Chemistry.”

ColaFountain

Get messy with chemistry.

Yes, the Mentos–Diet Coke geyser has been around for awhile. But a massive jet of soda doesn’t lose its appeal! Try a variety of soda types—cola, non-cola, diet, regular, caffeinated, non-caffeinated, generic, brand-name. What gives the highest result? One description of the activity is at http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/original-mentos-diet-coke-geyser.

Make something with chemistry.

Raid the recycle bin for clear deli-style containers with a recycle code #6 and bake up some homemade Shrinky Dink-style toys. Use permanent markers to color cut-out pieces of the polymer, then bake at 325° F. Toaster ovens are a portable way to do this with your club. A full description of the activity is in the collection at http://www.terrificscience.org/downloads/NCW/NCW2005.pdf (see page 12).

chromatography

Decorate with chemistry.

Create colorful designs on club t-shirts using radial chromatography. Tighten a section of the t-shirt’s fabric over a container such as the mouth of a beaker and fasten with a rubber band. Then, use permanent markers to make several small dots or other designs in the center of the section. Drip rubbing alcohol onto the patterns and watch your design spread! One description of the activity is at http://chemmovies.unl.edu/chemistry/beckerdemos/BD038.html.

Be surprising with chemistry.

Show your students a candle so they can make observations, then light it, blow it out, and eat it. Have their powers of observation failed them? The “candle” is really a cylinder of raw potato (or apple or a stick of chilled string cheese) with a piece of nut stuck into it that burns when you light it. One version of the activity is at http://www.flinnsci.com/media/478451/cf10563.pdf.

Reveal the face of chemistry.

What’s your chemistry face? “Chemisery”? “Chemystery”? A Flinn Scientific demonstration shows that your attitude going into chemistry can make a difference! You’ll draw faces on chromatography paper using potassium thiocyanate and potassium ferrocyanide solutions, then spray with iron(III) chloride solution to reveal each one. A full description is at https://www.flinnsci.com/media/621873/91801.pdf.

Be thoughtful with chemistry.

You’ve just figured out a puzzle. What happens when the puzzle changes? Can you make sense of it again? Students can use small cardstock puzzles to consider the nature of science. They solve a small tangram-style puzzle at the beginning. But, can they re-solve it when you add in another piece? See the puzzles and the activity at http://www.scienceteacherprogram.org/genscience/Choi04.html.

Use your first meeting to build excitement for the rest of the year’s activities! What did your Club do?