50 years ago we started something special

Lew Brubacher

Reg Friesen, first editor Chem 13 News

Since 1968, the University of Waterloo’s Chem 13 News magazine has provided a continuous resource to teachers of introductory chemistry worldwide. From its inception, Chem 13 News has played a lead role in developing passionate and concerned educators who inspire and groom the scientific leaders of tomorrow.

Reg Friesen, a professor in the Chemistry Department at the University of Waterloo, started Chem 13 News in response to cries for help from high school chemistry teachers in Ontario when they had to adapt to curricular changes on short notice in 1968. Assisting him were several of his colleagues.

After a successful first year, Friesen and his editorial group (D.A. Brisbin and W.A.E. McBryde) sought active collaboration from high school chemistry teachers and other readers, asking them to share their ideas, innovations and experiences. The flood of responses greatly contributed to the impact and usefulness of the magazine. The concept of teachers helping teachers continues to be the backbone philosophy of Chem 13 News.

Lew Brubacher

Lew Brubacher, editor Chem 13 News (1986 to 2006) - taken by Emily Weber for South Dakota State University at ChemEd 2017.

In 1986, Friesen passed the editorship to Lew Brubacher, a biochemistry professor, also in Waterloo’s Chemistry Department. Brubacher continued the tradition of promoting and expanding a network of contributors, and he guided the magazine through many changes in chemistry education during his 20 years as editor.

In 2006, I became editor of the magazine, having been a Waterloo Chemistry graduate with high school chemistry teaching experience. After 12 years I still find myself amazed at the wonderful innovations continuing to take place in the chemistry classroom, and teachers’ willingness to share their ideas and experiences. As stated earlier in this issue, we are transitioning online and hope to continue providing a platform for chemistry teachers to share and thrive on.

The magazine has promoted other initiatives in chemical education. In 1971 the Chem 13 News exam was created to challenge chemistry students. The Avogadro exam for grade 11 students started a few years later. To celebrate the 2011 International Year of the Chemistry, a collaborative Periodic Table Project was organized. This year to celebrate the 2019 International Year of the Periodic Table we are organizing a Timeline of Elements project.

As well, Chem 13 News magazine was the publicity agent for the ChemEd conferences for high school chemistry teachers, which started in 1973 and still continues today. The University of Waterloo hosted the first five conferences and again, 40 years later in 2013. A highlight of the ChemEd conference since 1987 is the Reg Friesen lecture.

I wondered what I should say to readers at the 50-year mark in our history. I found the perfect words: written by the then-editors about their first decade of publishing. 

When Chem 13 News made its modest beginning no one really guessed how it would expand and prosper. We are grateful to the Department of Chemistry of the University of Waterloo for its initial and continuing support. We could have got nowhere without this secure and constant financial help. We are also equally in debt to all those who have helped make this periodical worthwhile by writing articles and letters, taking questions and making enthusiastic and supportive comments. We continue to need your response, assistance and constant guidance to help us keep Chem 13 News on track so that we can provide material, address problems and discuss topics which, you, the high school chemistry teacher, find relevant to your interest and teaching needs. 
        D.A. Brisbin, R.J. Friesen and W.A.E. McBryde, 1979

Jean Hein in a rainbow lab coat

Jean Hein, current editor of Chem 13 News 

Chem 13 News through the decades: Throughout our anniversary year, selections of favourite articles from each decade will be reprinted. Email us your suggestions for favourite articles to feature!  Jean Hein, jhein@uwaterloo.ca