Department of Chemistry
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Having taught chemistry for over four decades, I am confident that I know my material. I also feel that I am doing a good job and have not retired because I still enjoy what I am doing. Author: Avi Ornstein, Classical Magnet School, Hartford, Connecticut
I would like to offer some comments on two articles in the December 2018/January 2019 issue of Chem 13 News, Author: Lyle Sadavoy, Toronto, Ontario
As an educator, I have really no way of knowing whether I had a marginal, moderate or profound influence on my students on a certain day — all I know is that my apparent “bad” day was likely not as bad as I thought it was, nor my supposed “good” day as enlightening for my students as I believed it to be.
On reading about Rutherford’s atomic model in David C. Stone’s excellent series in the March issue, I recalled having read somewhere long ago that Rutherford did not presume to assign positive or negative charge to the nucleus.
The purpose of this letter is to evaluate and validate the procedures described by Ford and Mason (February 2018 issue) using a microwave oven and chocolate bar to measure the speed of light.
Kacey and I wrote an article about the many versions of “Slime” or “Gak” or whatever you would like to call it in Chem 13 News, October 2016. At that time, Jean Hein, editor, showed us a Canadian advisory update which expressed the potential health hazards of using borax.
To add to the discussion on the edible candle demonstration, I have been doing it for almost four decades, catching full attention during the first week of school each year.
I have performed the edible candle demonstration for many years. (It was originally shown to me by Lee Marek.) I usually do it at the end of the first or second class, after discussing observations and doing several experiments where a similar size wax candle has been used for heating. I also use it in my chemical magic shows.
In the November 2016 issue you asked about podcasts... I listened...
Davis's excellent article (Cobalt complex ions…)
I totally agree with Michael P. Jansen and have shared “Crossing the Rubicon” — December 2016 and January 2017 issue, Chem 13 News — with my students so they can gain his perspective.
I was very surprised when I opened the November 2016 issue of Chem 13 News and flipped to pages 9 and 10. I have used Aaron Slepkov’s Message from the Mole puzzle in my classes since 1994.
I liked Lyle Sadavoy's ideas about the Elephant's Toothpaste demo (Chem 13 News, September 2016). He suggested placing the cylinder in a basin and covering the workspace with paper.
secret Christmas message
The idea of providing extra bonus credits proposed by Weaver to encourage engagement and thinking is an excellent motivator.
The Science Department at Sir Winston Churchill in Calgary has just renewed our subscription to this publication, as we find it a treat to read. Concerning the article “Requirement of laboratory safety training on teacher certification” by Jim Kaufmann, you may be interested to know that all teachers and technicians of science in our School Board, and other courses that use chemicals and equipment, have to complete Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training.
Out of frustration with lab reports, I wrote up a fake abstract for one of my tests. My goal was to include the most common student mistakes.
The demonstration “Sharing chemistry with the community: The solubility and alkalinity of ammonia” by Kenneth Lyle and Penney Sconzo, Chem 13 News, November 2015 (pages 11-13) provides an excellent, colorful and safe version of the ammonia fountain.
Joseph Sencen, Norwalk High School, Norwalk, Connecticut sent in a drawing done by Daniella Palumbo, one of his chemistry students. It is called "chemmy bear".
There should be no misconception about iodine being similar to carbon dioxide as only undergoing sublimation and not existing as a liquid at atmospheric pressure. As a student* and then as a teacher,** I used the lab called “Sublimation of Iodine”.
I agree with the exam writing advice presented by the authors: simply diving into multiple-choice questions may not be the best course of action. My students experience greater success by reading all of the short answer and lab-based questions before they begin the multiple choice.
The series ‘Flipping the chemistry classroom’ by Nicholas Key was excellent. Nicholas and his colleague David Greisman deserve kudos for sharing their experiences; their results are impressive. I base my opinion on experience. My serendipitous conversion to a form of flipped learning took place in 1974-75 when I was a faculty member at Dawson College (CÉGEP) in Montreal.
For many years in the UK we have operated a scheme that was suggested in Professor Behrman’s letter. At CLEAPSS we call the scheme “risk assessing” and by having a National (prosecuting) government body called the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) — which has never challenged our advice — students can wear safety spectacles when using solids and solutions classified as irritant to the eyes but will wear goggles when the chemical poses a serious risk or is corrosive to the eyes.
The methanol accident described by Mr. Jansen was actually years in the making. In my opinion these types of accidents are the direct result of the reduction in students’ exposure to handling chemicals due to the continued removal of chemicals and apparatus in the high school. These decisions are made by those “who know better” — the school trustees and supervisors.
Although I agree with Michael P. Jansen that a full-blown lab report might be a little too demanding at the high school level, I would like to address a number of issues that surfaced from his article.
When I shared my findings at a 1983 conference, there was not much interest. By 1991, Dr. George Bodnar, Purdue University, was giving a ChemEd 91 talk on problem solving using Polya’s methods to a packed room. I am not aware of how many teachers tried these methods.
I am uncomfortable with Sharon Geyer's article entitled "Phasing out the demo" (Chem 13 News, May 2014). Yes, it's fun and engaging for a student to make the thermite reaction come alive by smashing a rusty iron sphere against an aluminum foil-covered sphere — the sparks certainly fly. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Without an initial teacher demonstration, accompanied by explanation and guiding questions, the exercise is reduced to entertainment.
The use of the demonstration “A Colorful Catalyst” by Meridith Rahman and Kenneth Lyle, Chem 13 News, March 2014 (pages 12 and 13) provides a great opportunity for a problem-solving moment with your class.
I would like to make three points regarding the article "The Exploding Gummy Bear", Chem 13 News, February 2014, pages 12 -14.)...
I have found the recent opinion pieces by Michael Jansen to be very thought provoking, particularly “Chemistry: It’s not fun” (page 3, October issue) and the letters in response (pages 8 - 9, December/January issue). If fun here is taken to mean a very undemanding curriculum without sufficient rigor to support understanding and further study of chemistry, then no doubt the readers of Chem 13 News will be unanimous in agreeing with Michael Jansen.
"I write to congratulate you on your letter in the current issue of Chem 13 News –– Chemistry: It’s not fun (page 3, October issue). There is certainly too much of this misguided emphasis on "fun" in so many areas these days, which reflects itself in an unwillingness to work hard."
The November 2012 issue of Chem13 News has “isopropanol” listed in the materials for the Miniature Whoosh Bottle Demonstration. The question was raised whether this was an appropriate name or whether “2-propanol” or “isopropyl alcohol” would be the better choice.
The November 2012 issue of Chem 13 News had an article on 2-L Whoosh bottles by Ken Lyle. It didn't reference the safety articles I published in both Chem 13 News and JCE.
The elephant’s toothpaste demonstration — used for the puking pumpkin in the October issue of Chem 13 News (page 20) — is truly a favourite demonstration of mine.
I was surprised by the article from Tim Allman in the March issue of Chem 13 News. I have never failed to detect magnesium nitride after heating magnesium in the air.
A view from a across the pond: In September 2011, you had a letter from Shawn McGovern concerning storage of chemicals and waste. The reply from Greg Friday was full of good sense. Here are some more points from the UK...
The colorful arrangement on the front cover of the December/January issue looked to me as a "collapse" waiting to happen. Perhaps there are thin shelves supporting each layer of flasks—but my old eyes could not see any.