Creating Inspiring Leaders

Since there are many students who see chemistry as something difficult, boring, and of no relevance to their lives, our Central Visual Arts School ChemClub participated in projects to help motivate students to learn and inquire more about chemistry in the real world.

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Festival de Quimica at Central Visual Arts School

Our school celebrated the Festival with different interactive activities and demonstrations to educate others about chemistry. These activities were carried out by our ChemClub students and the American Chemical Society Student Chapter at the University of Puerto Rico−Rio Piedras Campus (ACS UPR−RP). A poster contest was also conducted in our school to promote the Festival. This year’s theme was “Chemistry Colors our World.” The contest was beneficial to high school students because they could obtain another perspective of the field of chemistry, as they used their art abilities to show the chemistry behind color. Members of the ACS UPR−RP Student Chapter collaborated by serving as contest judges. They evaluated the posters, taking into account artistic and creative elements, chemistry and science content, and relevance of each design to the Festival theme.

Some of the presented posters are shown.

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Festival de Quimica at El Paseo la Princesa

Our students also worked at the Festival de Quimica held at El Paseo la Princesa in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in October 2015 and April 2016. The October Festival had the National Chemistry Week theme “Chemistry Colors Our World” and the April Festival had the Chemists Celebrate Earth Day theme “Our Home’s Ecosystem.” It gave participants chances to explore how chemistry and other sciences are present in our lives.

Magic of Chemistry Shows

show_1Our ChemClub members worked hard to identify schools where they should conduct chemistry demonstration sh
ows, using materials from our everyday lives. The ACS UPR−RP Student Chapter helped us organize the shows and the demonstrations. The audiences were diverse, including students from elementary to high school levels. We also collected data about what the audiences thought about chemistry before and after the event, and whether they thought they would share chemistry with others.

These activities gave ChemClub students opportunities to develop their chemistry skills, become better leaders, and motivate other students to be part of the incredible world of chemistry. We thank the ACS ChemClub program for its support.

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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.

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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

Murder Mysteries at Thomas Armstrong Toro HS

During the month of March, members of the ChemClub in our school, Thomas Armstrong Toro High School, in Ponce, Puerto Rico, arranged a school-wide activity that involved solving four completely different and intriguing make-believe murders. However, these crime scenes were no ordinary ones. No, our ChemClub members took it into their own hands to involve as much chemistry in the activity as possible.

Members of the club creating the activity left clues at each crime scene involving different aspects of chemistry, from decoding messages with the periodic table to having to analyze evidence. The Club focused primarily on using different methods of crime scene investigation and employed mainly fingerprint and ink chromatography methods to solve the mysteries. Before the whole activity took place, the president of our ChemClub, along with a few other members, led a series of classes discussing these same topics and the science behind them.

During the day of the activity, many students, both members and non-members, participated.  They investigated the four crime scenes arranged by the ChemClub. Each crime scene took place in a different corner of our basketball court. In the middle of the gym we placed two sets of tables, one for handing in all evidence after analysis, and another for doing experiments involving the evidence. At the experiment table members of the ChemClub guided students  through ink chromatography and finger printing techniques using graphite. Students of all grades were involved, working in groups of two to four.

The activity was a huge success. The so-called murderers were caught, even though they had managed to haze students by the dozen. From periodic tables to observing ink color chromatographs, the ChemClub in our school conducted a grand activity this month, which was both entertaining and educational. And in the end, justice prevailed!

 

The Top Ten Chemistry Videos of 2013

chemnews“Although it’s our mission at Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN)  to describe in words the wonders of chemistry, sometimes words just don’t do justice to the dynamics of a particular reaction or funky new material.”  So starts C&EN associate editor Lauren Wolf’s post on The Top Ten Chemistry Videos of 2013.

This time of year we find newspapers and magazines full of end of the year ‘Best’ lists, from The Ten Best Movies and The Ten Best Books to  The Ten Most Irritating Celebrities of 2013.

Newscripts is a very popular feature of C&EN.  It can be found every week on the last page of each issue.  Newscripts features two or three stories that capture the less serious side of chemistry.  Stories range from molecular models that look like animals to how to put holograms on hard candy.

The editors who put together Newscripts put together their list of favorite science clips for 2013.  They inclue an a cappella parody of Queen’s Bohemian Rapsody explaining string theory to an ultra-slow motion investigation of the ‘barking dog’ reaction to the video below.

Although some of the videos might not be suitable for classroom use (Should you Pee in the Ocean?), most will make for an interesting and educational addition to your next ChemClub meeting.  Check out the list.