Chemistry at Selah High School. We used to follow our textbook and start the year with drill and kill activities: converting units, counting significant digits and rounding lessons. All very important skills learned in September but not applied for months. Students learned how to round in chapter one and were expected to remember how to round in chapter 8. We had to stop and reteach rounding. Frustrating for student and teacher both.
Now, our team starts the year with an inquiry cycle with argumentation. All student teams collect pressure-volume data for air in a syringe. They learn how to analyze and interpret data—various ways to test for an inverse or direct relationship. Our students are able to come up with the explanation for the greater pressure at smaller volumes based on their prior experience with collision theory. Teams then generate testable questions, plan and conduct their own investigations, analyze their data and engage in argument. After the experiments are completed, students read about the Kinetic Molecular Theory and realize that they were using this model for their scientific principles-based reasoning.
In the first three weeks of school, students have used 7 out of the 8 Science & Engineering Practices!
Next is the atom & the periodic tables. Students focus on the structure of the atom and are introduced to calculating moles of atoms and rounding their answers, balancing simple equations, simple stoichiometry calculations and energy of reactions. The one thing students have to “master” is the structure of the atom. The rest they will learn four more times—when we focus on ionic compounds, covalent compounds and organic compounds and then again when we focus on the actual topics of moles, balancing, stoichiometry and thermochemistry. Along the way, we also repeatedly revisit the atom and periodic table and ionic/covalent/organic compounds.
We plow the field five times, each time setting the plow a little deeper. By the time we get to those “chapters,” students have already learned the basics and we can move through them very efficiently. We “Go slow to go fast.”
Married to Larry, an old Coast Guard salt and amazing man.I get to share Larry with our yellow lab, Sherman.