Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A day in the life of a chem teacher at E. O. Smith

I don't write as much about my #chemistry classes.

But that's just because I haven't been doing as much experimenting with them: The flipped model I'm using this year in chem is essentially unchanged from last year.

But that doesn't excuse my neglect of writing them up, because every day with them is just as cool as with my biology kids, though I have no doubt it'd be even cooler if I tried out the project- and mastery-based approach with them as well.

Today is a case in point.

Our lab: Flinn's Micro-Mole Rockets lab. Students make mixtures of hydrogen and oxygen gas in plastic pipette bulbs, light them with a match, and rate the loudness of the pop. Then we launch them like rockets with a Tesla coil. (I'll have to get some photos tomorrow.)

And they'll use the data to confirm the ratio at which hydrogen and oxygen react to form water (2:1, H2O).

It's an elegant method they use, involving a constant total amount of gas while only varying the ratio of gases. it's called the method of continuous variation.

And they have been progressing beautifully this year in their attention to detail and controlling their variables, and they never cease to amaze me with their inquisitiveness ("What makes the hydrogen react with the oxygen?") and their energy for life.

As I walked around the room, hydrogen and oxygen popping together like firecrackers, my student teacher (a Ph.D. biochemist and veteran pharmaceutical researcher) helping them launch their rockets, and a steady chorus of "Dr. Green?" requests for assistance keeping me moving, I was distracted by one student telling stories of mermaids and Jason the Argonaut, and another accusing Thomas Edison of being the greatest villain of history, and I was laughing.

Laughing because of the intellectual and creative energy that burned in there like a fire inside and between them all.


Maybe. But I don't think so.

Some see teens as narcissistic, annoying and who knows what else. I prefer to see them for what they are: The most creative and energetic stage of the most amazing species on the planet in a most amazing universe.

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