Department of Chemistry
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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
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
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.
Michael Jansen gives his approach to some of the struggles that face teachers.
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…
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a favourite of the students' because of the wow factor.
At the University of Toronto, introductory organic chemistry is taught to life science undergraduates through two single-semester courses: one in their first year of studies, and the other in second year.
In Part 1 of this series1 I expressed my rationale for replacing my final written exam with a practical exam. The following are some questions I have received in regard to the logistics of a 5-day practical exam.
This is an excellent activity to use for review at the end of the semester.
Winston Churchill once wrote, “There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.” It was indeed not an easy decision to leave the time-honoured convention of a final written exam and replace it with a final practical exam in my chemistry courses.
Canadian readers of Chem13 News will be aware that it is planned to have a woman’s portrait on the next Canadian $10 banknote and proposals have been invited. But which one?
Facebook, let’s face it, was not designed as an educational medium. But after a few on and off attempts to use social media over the years, thanks to my students, I have recently been able to moderate a social media group that has helped stimulate interest in chemistry and other sciences.
For all that we value ourselves, we hardly seem to be featured on either stamps or banknotes — though many famous chemists do. In 1991 I was given this Ethiopian note (no longer legal tender), which was then equivalent to $US 25.
There is a myth in education that both school administrations and students believe. They believe that because their science, art and engineering faculty went to school for a long time, the faculty will know about lab safety and will make sure that students are not harmed.
I have a suggestion that I hope will please you — and your students. It concerns a special lab exam. Let me explain — in broad strokes — what I do and how I do it. Sometime before the end of the course I post on our class web-page a list of possible questions — I call them scenarios — for the lab exam.
Stacey Lavery has these rules for students at the University of Waterloo. Do you have a “top ten lab rules” list?
Cheating is such a frustrating part of my job. I know that kids cheat on homework assignments and lab reports. So I have to work to safeguard my assignments from mindless regurgitation of facts. I create assignments with answers that cannot be googled.
You have read the articles about chemistry education research in recent issues of Chem 13 News, and understand why it is important to chemistry teachers, but you may not know where to begin or how to fit it into an already demanding schedule. Here we present a continuum of ways high school teachers can get involved with education research from being consumers of the research and implementing new ideas in their classrooms to completing full-blown research studies where they develop interventions, collect and analyze data, and publish or present the results.
Chemistry in Pictures winner
This photo gives Chem 13 News the opportunity to share a teacher’s frightening experience with this demonstration. It informs and reminds readers about necessary safety considerations.
What does watching a parachuting team free-falling through the sky have to do with teaching the particle nature of matter to your elementary or middle school students, or with helping your secondary or first-year university-level students learn about structure and bonding?
Remember formal lab reports from your undergrad days? Multiple page affairs starting with an abstract, followed by an introduction, experimental, data, calculations and ending with the (dreaded) discussion. These reports did me a lot of good.
I was inspired to start a regular feature in my chemistry class called "Why study chemistry?" after hearing Sam Kean, Brian Rohrig and Joe Schwarcz, featured presenters at the ChemEd 2013 conference in Waterloo. As teachers, we would like to believe that our students remember everything that we teach them but, in reality, they will retain only a very small amount.
This year I decided to try a new "ice breaker" activity with my students to help get them interacting with each other on the first day. I handed out a 3x5 index card to each student in the class. The kids divided the card into four sections by making a line down the middle in both the x and y direction.
When I first read about learning styles my wife, who received her B.Ed. in the 1980s, responded “Ah, visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning.” Certainly, VAK (and VARK, VAKT, etc.) has been a staple of educational workshops and conferences at the school and post-secondary levels for decades. It is not alone: other entries under the “learning styles” umbrella include Dunn & Dunn’s model (stimuli & elements), Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (convergent/divergent thinking) and, recently, Multiple Intelligences (MI).
Peter Childs wrote an interesting article in Chemistry Education Research and Practice a few years ago on the topic of turning research into effective practice. In it he writes...
When you have time, ask your students: “Are copper atoms brown?”
I keep reading in various science magazines the decreasing number of students entering science — especially chemistry and physics in North America. Since 1968 it seems that Canada has had a steady decline in interest in chemistry — basically since the new science curriculum was introduced to correspond with CHEM Study in the United States.
Picture the scene: a young woman, fresh out of college, some-time in January of her first year of teaching. She’s alone in her chemistry classroom at the end of another difficult day.
I’m struggling to make peace with phasing out class demonstrations. I am in the middle of the transition from a traditional classroom into a student-centered learning environment.
Chemistry has a method of making progress which is uniquely its own and which is not understood or appreciated by non-chemists. Our concepts are often ill-defined, our rules and principles full of exceptions, and our reasoning perilously near being circular. Nevertheless, combining every theoretical argument available, however shaky, with experiments of many kinds, chemists have built up one of the great intellectual domains of mankind and have acquired great power over nature, for good or ill. E. B. Wilson
A woman visits her doctor, who has her enter his medical office. After several minutes of waiting she notices that the doctor has paid no attention to her, and that he is bent over his worksheets, on which he writes without pause. After a period of some impatience, the woman says to the doctor...
It was a great privilege to meet so many Canadian and American chemistry teachers and lecturers at the superbly run ChemEd 2013 conference at the University of Waterloo. It was very brave of the organizers (and indeed myself for that matter) to organise a workshop over a 3,700 mile distance and a rather large stretch of water.
I am a chemist and I am heavily involved in science outreach, especially in chemistry. I have built a library of demonstrations that I can pull out to show scientific principles.
At a party recently, a friend of mine (or should I say ex-friend), notorious for his outspoken personality, ran towards me as I entered the room. Realizing that I was about to be accosted, I pretended that I had forgotten to plug in my car’s block heater, and tried to leave the room. “Mark….Mark….”, I was trapped!