Category Archives: Chemistry

Better Living Through Chemistry: Student Science Writers

In this compressed semester of Grade 9 MYP Chemistry, I had students do one full-length One World piece, written for a wider online audience. We had done formative One World work earlier in the semester, and the process of this article took a good few weeks, with drafting on GoogleDocs.

Embed from Getty Images


Brief: write a 1,200-1,500 word article for an online audience on the prompt “Better living through Chemistry: Chemical solutions to Global Issues.”

Assessment: One World and Communication in Science

Process: Topics proposed and drafted through GoogleDocs, with students seeking feedback on writing through highlighting and comments in the GoogleDocs. In the final sessions they put the articles together in WordPress and gave peer-feedback for quality of presentation, flow and message. We aimed to use images found through CreativeCommons Search and through Getty’s free Images(though the embed widget went squiffy on some of their wordpress editors).

Teacher note: this kind of task is a great way to realise that we are all language teachers. Managing workflow through GoogleDocs/Hapara makes commenting on drafts easier, though students need to keep their work there in order to show progression. The worflow and product are similar to the Grade 10 Environmental Science task, though with more scaffolding along the way.


Some highlights (with a range of scores) are posted below. Please click-through, read them and leave some encouraging comments!


What are we really learning from practical work?

As we study science, a lot of our time and resources are devoted to implementing an engaging practical scheme of work. Are we really making the most educational use of this time, these resources and the opportunities that we have? 

Teachers all over the world use experiments and demonstrations to engage students in the concept being taught. But does this actually improve student learning? Two recent videos have got me thinking about this issue, and before you read on you should watch them both.

The first is from UK science teacher & communicator Alom Shaha (@alomshaha), half the brains behind the website. The video was produced for the Nuffield Foundation’s new Practical Work for Learning resource. He refers to a number of research papers in the video, and is also one of the leaders of the #SciTeachJC (science teachers journal club) twitter discussion group.

Do you recognise those labs and how do you use them? Do the labs we do really help us teach the concepts we intend them to, and how can we rethink (or at least evaluate) our use of labs.

The second video is from US Chemistry teacher Tom Stelling (@ChemistTom), on his “vRant” about students asking to “blow something up” and the dangers of ‘wow’ demos as distraction rather than education.

Note: this post rambles a bit from here on. If you want to know more, please read on. Otherwise, all the good bits were in Alom & Tom’s videos. 

Read the rest of this entry

Crash Course: How to Speak “Chemistrian”

In our Grade 9 Chemistry class we think of the subject as a great puzzle, leveling-up as we add new concepts. The key to the puzzle is the periodic table: learning your way around – and how describe what you know and interpret the descriptions of others.

In this video, from the Crash Course Chemistry series, Hank goes over:

  • Determining Formulas and Names of Monatomic Ions 2:06
  • Finding Cation-and Anion Forming Elements on the Periodic Table3:29
  • Writing Formulas and Naming Transition Metals 4:02
  • Naming Acids and their Anions 5:35

Periodic Table for Biologists Poster

I forgot this existed…

Periodic Table for Biologists poster.

This is designed to address some of the assessment statements for the Chemistry of Life unit, and to provide a clear wall-chart that is free to use and free from advertising. I recently updated it with relative atomic masses and a couple of corrections. Download the full A0 poster here:

On a related and interesting note, here’s a little video by Periodic Videos on the Japanese discovery of element 113:

Engineering a Classroom Brand

This looks like a great way to turn a classroom into a community, building ownership of learning, by Gary Abud. For a full post on the idea and more inspired ideas and some great posts on modeling chemistry (#ModChem), head over to his blog: Productive & Constructive.

“Covalent Love” winner of Science Idol

Congratulations to James Mustapic, winner of Tomcfad’s Science Idol 2012 competition in New Zealand. For students in the UK, there is a similar competition underway: Geek Pop 2012. Have a go!

I was fortunate to meet Tom McFadden in Kyoto University yesterday, and have written up some thoughts on Educational Hip-Hop: Creativity and the Curriculum on i-Biology | Reflections.

Get inspired!

Some Lyrical Science resources here.

IB Science Weekly Magazine – Get involved!

IB Science Weekly Magazine - do you want to be a news spotter?

IB Science Weekly Magazine – do you want to be a news spotter?

I kept seeing these posts in Twitter, so after a quick exhange with Adrienne Amichetti (@amichetti) decided to give it a go. There are lots of paper.lis out there, especially it seems in the ed-tech world. It was quick and easy to set up, though a bit of a fiddle to work out how posts were categorised and filtered (still not sure how it works).

The aim of this project is to provide a weekly publication which pulls in the current science and education news, for use in MYP, DP and PYP classrooms. 

If you would like to get involved and be an IB Science or Science Education news spotter, please head on over to Twitter and let me know. If you see some worthy news, simply tweet it with a link and a description, along with the hashtag #IBSciWeekly. The elves will see it and it should appear in the finished product. I will be able to curate the posts as they are published each week. If you think that everything you (or someone you recommend) is gold, I can include their Twitter handle or blog url as a source.

The details:

  • Address:
  • Hashtags: #IBSciWeekly, #MYP, #IBDP, #IBBio, #IBChem, #IBPhysics
  • Published: Weekly, on a Tuesday (I think)
  • NewsSpotters: IB Teachers and Students

Of course, things are bound to go wrong at first! I would love to find a way to share the editing jobs.

And here is a lovely video of a murmuration of starlings:


Last Lesson Shenanigans: Cork Cannons

Here’s a bit of fun for the last lesson of the year, with a sensible Chemistry or Physics class. The aim is to use the gas produced in the reaction between baking soda and dilute HCl (or vinegar) to propel a cork over a wall and into a beaker. Lots of fun with testing methods, hypothesising and problem solving.

Obvious safety issues: use low concentrations, keep washing hands and/or use gloves and keep goggles on at all times. Students must be sure to aim away from the body and each other.

Cork Cannons

Mole & Stoichiometry Presentation

For my Grade 9 Intro Chemistry class, as we end the year. Despite the word ‘stoichiometry’ being a bit scary for some students, it can be a fun unit – a lot of logic problems! It leads to lots of questioning, whiteboarding and problem-solving. the final lab, “Investigating a factor which affects the yield of a reaction*” allows for quite a diversity of approaches and a lot of differentiation in the data processing.

As one student said, “I have to think too much in Chem class!

Thanks to Barbara Lucas for all the support this year.

*chosen from a shortlist


The Missing Link to Renewable Energy? Donald Sadoway at TED2012

“We need to think big, we need to think cheap… Let’s invent to the price point of the electricity market. If you want to make something dirt cheap – make it out of dirt. Preferably dirt which is locally sourced!”

This is an entertaining and erudite TED Talk from MIT’s Materials Engineer Donald Sadoway which outlines our current problem of grid-level electricity storage, describes how batteries work and goes on to explain where we could go with molten metal batteries. He describes his passion as science and service to society, which is a great sentiment.

This is a good link to our units on Chemistry, Physics and Environmental Science and would make a fine starting point for a One World project. How can science positively impact the world?


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