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50 years ago we started something special

Monday, September 24, 2018

50 years of Chem13 News magazine covers.Not many magazines reach the age of 50 but since September 1968, the University of Waterloo Department of Chemistry has published Chem 13 News, a magazine for 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 FriesenReg Friesen (right), 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. Many changes in science curricula at the time were quickly introduced as reaction to Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik, the first artificial Earth satellite, in 1957.

After a successful first year, Friesen and his editorial group sought active collaboration from high school chemistry teachers and other readers, asking them to share their ideas, innovations and experiences. Chem 13 News magazine was the impetus to the ChemEd conference for high school chemistry teachers. The concept of teachers helping teachers continues to be the backbone philosophy of Chem 13 News.

Lew BrebacherIn 1986, Friesen passed the editorship to Lew Brubacher (pictured right), a biochemistry professor, also in Waterloo’s Chemistry Department. Brubacher continued the tradition and guided the magazine through many changes in chemistry education during his 20 years as editor.

In 2006, Jean Hein became editor of the magazine having been a Waterloo Chemistry graduate and high school chemistry teacher.

Jean Hein“I continue to be amazed at the innovations continuing to take place in the chemistry classroom, and willingness of teachers to share their ideas and experiences,” says Hein.

This year, the magazine is transitioning online to an open access model. By eliminating printing and mailing costs, while maintaining the Faculty of Science’s support, we’ve managed to make the magazine free and available to everyone. The last 50 issues with 600 articles were posted online to celebrate our 50 years of publication. The magazine will continue to provide a platform for chemistry teachers to share and thrive.

The magazine has promoted other initiatives in chemical education, including the Chem13 News exam for chemistry students (1971) and the Avogadro exam for grade 11 high school students.

But by far their most successful outreach campaign has been the Periodic Table Project in 2011 to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry. The finished mural – a collage of hand-painted artwork from students around the world is proudly displayed at the entrance to the EIT building. This year, Chem13 News is creating a Timeline of Elements mural for the Science Teaching Complex in honour of the International Year of the Periodic Table in 2019. Already more than 200 schools in 26 countries are participating.

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