Department of Chemistry
200 University Ave. W
Canada N2L 3G1
Some of you may remember when smoking was permitted just about anywhere. My high school had an on-campus smoking area — the “butt lounge”. Author: Michael P Jansen, Crescent School, Toronto, Ontario
Chemistry students around the world have written the Avogadro and Chem 13 News Exams, prepared by the late Dr. Carey Bissonnette for many years. Author: Michael P Jansen, Crescent School, Toronto, Ontario
Let me tell you a story. With any luck there will be a point. Author: Michael P Jansen, Crescent School, Toronto, Ontario
When you go to university you expect to learn certain things. A math program should teach you mathematics, a biology program should teach you about living things. Author: Kevin Potoczny, Biomedical Science student, University of Waterloo Waterloo, Ontario
Job descriptions are a good thing. Whether you clean the streets or transplant hearts, it’s beneficial to know exactly what you’re to do. It informs — and protects — you and your clients and your boss. Author: Michael P Jansen, Crescent School, Toronto, Ontario
A student cannot learn what he or she doesn’t understand
You may have heard me rant against formal lab reports. I have no time for this waste of time. Having high school students copy a list of equipment/chemicals, regurgitate a recipe and write what they were supposed to observe strikes me — and my students — as pointless. Author: Michael P Jansen, Crescent School, Toronto, Ontario
How to best guide new teachers
As this school year ends, probably the last thing on your mind is those new teachers who are just graduating from teacher’s college and starting fresh at your school this September. But trust me, they are thinking about September and they will need your help. Author: Katherine Mansfield, Waterloo District School Board, Waterloo, Ontario
Why? Do you want to die younger than you should? Chemicals spilled all over the balances and benches. Dirty weighing paper and scoops and spatulas…. Unlabeled vials scattered everywhere. Dirty dishes left any old where, and God only knows where the EXPENSIVE stir bars have gone… Author: Robert W. Reed, Chemistry Lab Coordinator, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
I am the Head of Crescent School’s Science Department. Before you get all impressed by this lofty title and the attendant responsibilities, I’ll toss a little full disclosure your way: no one else wanted it. Author: Michael P Jansen, Crescent School, Toronto, Ontario
As chemistry teachers, we have to explain things. Complicated things, with complicated explanations. Then, these complicated explanations work their way into our students’ brains. Author: Michael P Jansen, Crescent School, Toronto, Ontario
One of the biggest shocks that I experienced while starting university was having to alter my study techniques. During my first year, I began to realize that the study methods I used throughout high school were no longer working for me. Author: Natasha Evans, biochemistry student, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario
I’ve written about incentivizing students as a way towards engagement. I recently hit upon a great idea — a real brain wave. AP Chemistry students completed a challenging lab where they carried out (and analyzed) a bunch of redox reactions.
For many science students at the University of Waterloo, their first exam experience comes in the form of what is known as “Chemistry Term Test 1”. University chemistry is a fast-paced environment with little time to stop and catch up.
Michael Jansen gives his approach to some of the struggles that face teachers.
Lilli Temple-Murray describes her experiences and struggles moving away to go to university.
Yesterday, I heard a student bragging about the thousands of hours he spent playing a certain on-line game. That’s right, folks, you read correctly — thousands…
“Who wants to become a doctor”? I remember sitting in my first year “get to know your program” seminar and the professor asked that question to the thousand or so students. With hundreds of hands confirming the statement, she shattered everyone’s dream by saying “congratulations, only three of you will make it.”
I couldn’t care less what you think about politics. If you agree with my views — fine; if you don’t — fine. Conservatives (small or large “C”), Socialists, Liberals, Libertarians, Communists, Greens… whatever… I’m okay. Talk all you want. I’ll listen — or at least look like I am — and I’ll nod and maybe smile. I might even “agree” with your hare-brained notions. Same deal with religion — say what you like, I don’t mind. My hot button is education.
The saying, “Once in a Blue Moon” refers to two full moons occurring within the same month, a rarity. This recently occurred this past January 2018. The actual moon appearing blue in color occurs from time to time as well.
I asked 1st and 2nd year University of Waterloo instructors for one nugget of wisdom to share with incoming students.
One of the most common questions (and points of contention) that arises in discussions of any advanced chemistry curriculum is: why do chemists need so much training in mathematics? People on the ‘pro’ side of the discussion usually point to examples, saying “Quantum chemistry is applied mathematics!” or “How can you do thermodynamics or chemical kinetics without knowing some calculus?”
Fifty years ago Chem 13 News magazine started as a free newsletter published by the Chemistry Department at the University of Waterloo and now, with the help of high school teachers around the world, we are moving to publish material online with free access.
Last summer, my wife’s friend told me that she was planning to sunbathe on the rooftop patio of her condo. I told her to apply extra sunscreen — she’ll be closer to the sun.
A few blocks from my home a parcel of land is for sale with a large sign advertising its size as “+/- 5.23 acres”. Is it possible that I could purchase -5.23 acres of land? Would the seller then pay me for this purchase? Of course this is ridiculous, and we could logically assume the vendor isn’t selling negative acreage, and so interpret the sign to mean approximately 5.23 acres, but this lack of clarity is not acceptable in science.
In my high-school studies, science disciplines were presented as fields of knowledge based on certainty and absolute truths. My chemistry teachers spent most of the class time solving mathematical problems to get quantitative results instead of exploring the meaning of the numerical results obtained.
In a previous issue I shared some tips I learned on being a good lab partner in an undergraduate chemistry lab, and I would like to add more advice on how to be the best lab partner you can be.
In spite of everything that I don’t know about chemistry, which would fill a significant portion of the internet, I’m not a fan of being told how to teach.
I just had the most wonderful Grade 11 Chemistry lesson that really took off in the final few minutes. The topic was an introduction to solubility — “like dissolves like”.
I wanted to comment on your "Midterms can be a shock" article from the December 2017/January 2018 issue since it was particularly applicable to what was happening in my two sections of Grade 12 University Advanced Functions.
In the first article of the series, I discussed the assumptions behind the preparation of solutions; i.e., why are volumes not always additive? In the second article of the series, I would like to discuss the confusion that arises in the minds of some of our students between fact and theory, with particular attention to the concept of electronegativity.
I know many of you will share my feelings of indescribable goodness when an experiment turns out super-well. Let me share . . .
In the chemistry undergraduate labs, you will eventually have to find a lab partner. This is the person who could make or break your 3-hour session every other week for the entire term.
[This is reprinted from the fall 2017 issue of ACCN, The Canadian Chemical News, www.cheminst.ca/magazine. We thought readers would be interested in hearing what Michael Jansen, a high school teacher and regular Chem 13 News columnist, has to say to the Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC) — similar to the American Chemical Society and Royal Society of Chemistry.
Do you have a 75-minute period to challenge your students chemically? Give them the experience of writing the Chem 13 News Exam or Avogadro Exam!
In her article “2016 Canadian Chemistry Contest: Worst discriminators” (March 2017, Chem 13 News) Jennifer Pitt-Lainsbury described her analysis of a CCC question with a low discriminating index and asked for comments (see boxes, below). She challenged us to look more critically at all of our tests and evaluations and ask whether they evaluate what we think they are evaluating.
The term feels long and full of potential on that first day of class. Whether it’s your first semester or your last one at university, always take the time to review your course syllabus, understand the course requirements, needed materials, break down of assignments, midterms and final exam.
A few years back, I got for my classroom a small bell, the kind that hotels have on the front desk that you “ding” for service.
Coleman Powermax fuel is a liquid fuel for camp stoves. Before this product was discontinued, it was sold in aluminium canisters.
I always start my senior level classes by asking them this question: “When you’re out of high school, regardless of where you are going, who is going to be responsible for you?” For some, it is the first time they have thought about the fact that from now on they will truly have to take ownership of their education.
Most students worked hard to get into university and have been successful in high school — very successful. So why do midterms shock many of these capable students?
Let me tell you about Brandon. He didn’t have the greatest reputation coming out of grade 10: lacklustre engagement with an attitude to match. In Grade 11 Chemistry, it didn’t take long for me to see that his “rep” was well-earned.
At the University of Waterloo — and most universities — individual concerns and questions can often be resolved quickly by email. In the Science Undergraduate Office we receive hundreds of emails each week. During peak times throughout the term, we receive hundreds of emails per day.
In the September issue of this fabulous publication there is an idea for a first-day activity, taken from the Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario (STAO) virtual library...
'Black tongue and Pepto-Bismol” ... quite a little scare. Soon after waking from a night’s sleep, I clear my throat and spit into the bathroom sink...
I gotta say, everyone, that it was huge to receive the Chemical Institute of Canada’s 2017 ...
I’m a lab coordinator in the Chemistry Department of the University of Guelph...
Those of you of a certain age will remember “Fernando’s Hideaway”, a “bit” that Billy Crystal did on Saturday Night Live. His celebrity interviews always included something like this: “It doesn’t matter how you feel… it’s how you look. And baby… you look marvellous”.
I tell students on the first day in my undergraduate chemistry class — think about the chemistry, not the math. Almost every chemistry calculation problem can be deconstructed into a math word problem.
This is a favourite of the students' because of the wow factor.
When people discover I’m a chemistry teacher, they feel compelled to tell me about their chemistry teacher.