Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Sub Image2:Macro to Micro Structures
1) Atoms and Molecules2) Macro to Micro Structures 3) Energetics and Dynamics 4) Theory and Practice in Chemical Systems 5) Chemical Design 6) The Chemistry of Life 7) Chemistry and the Environment 8) Chemistry at the Interface

Unit 8.6 The Importance of Teaching Chemistry
Teachers reflect on their experiences, including what they believe is required for good teaching in chemistry.
Video program cues: 39:00 — 57:00

Understanding environmental chemistry

"Now, when you’re talking about chemical bonds’ strength, you can discuss that it is not an abstract idea but this really matters in terms of environmental science. That helps you figure out how long a polluting molecule will hang around in the environment, whether or not it will be broken down in the atmosphere or not. When you talk about chemical kinetics, when you talk about how fast reactions occur between different types of molecules, you need to know that in order to figure out whether or not certain processes in the atmosphere are going to occur. And it doesn’t have to be general big environmental ideas, it’s just as simple to realize that it is basically chemistry that’s holding this table together. Knowing about the bonds, and arrangement of the atoms, is what allows us to have solid surfaces to work on. Everything in your daily life rests on chemistry."

Dr. Laurie Geller
National Academy of Sciences

Dunnivant, F. M.; Moore, A.; Alfano, M. J.; Brzenk, R.; Buckley, P. T.; Newman, M. E. (2000), 'Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 77, No. 12, pp: 1602-1603.

How to teach chemistry

"Because all students in our system take chemistry, that means every student in Edison High School is going to need a chemistry credit. Then, we had an interest in giving some serious consideration to the way we taught chemistry."

Dr. Leslie Pierce
Thomas Edison High School, Virginia

"We had to rewrite and take all units and smash them together, and come up with something cohesive for the entire semester."

Veatta Berry
Thomas Edison High School, Virginia

"We were going over all documentation and sort of decided at that point six themes that ran through chemistry, no matter what we were talking about, or what concept we were talking about: elements and the periodic table, compounds and bonding, kinetic theory, the mole and stoichiometry, chemical reactions and solutions. And that was the inspiration for organizing the units around those six threads that run through. We just started arguing what those themes were going to be and we decided that we would approach information related to these topics, in every unit we did. By doing the major themes at the same time together with each other, the kids learn it in an interrelated manner. So they are not asked to make the connections, they are making them as they learn the material, so the connections are there and they are solid."

Caryn Galatis
Thomas Edison High School, Virginia

"As you’re doing a little bit of solutions, a little bit of mole relationships and a little bit of periodicity, all at the same time."

Dr. Leslie Pierce
Thomas Edison High School, Virginia

"In the first three units it does, it seems like such a model. Try to see how kids make the connections. Somewhere between the third and the fourth unit, it dawned on me one day, as I was with a group of kids trying to solve some stoichiometry problems, that these kids are asking me questions and having discussions with me that I couldn’t get them to at the end of the course, before."

Caryn Galatis
Thomas Edison High School, Virginia

Wright, J.C.; Millar, S.B.; Koscuik, S.A.; Penberthy, D.L.; Williams, P.H.; Wampold, B.E. (1998)' A Novel Strategy for Assessing the Effects of Curriculum Reform on Student Competence, 'Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 75, No. 8, pp: 986-992.

Examples from teaching

"What we had to do was to keep the rigor of chemistry but make it more real to them. And we do so many of our labs, which are basically with household-type materials. Yes, you could teach almost a full chemistry course not having to ever order from a chemical supply catalog. With a few pieces of equipment, you could do a lot of really major chemistry: most of our labs are now oriented towards common household materials, we don’t have an enormous chemical supply budget anymore. And that really ties the kids in too, because it’s stuff they see every day."

Caryn Galatis
Thomas Edison High School, Virginia

"My kids like stories. Like we talked about the gas in the Nike air bubble, the sulfur hexafluoride, and how they needed to change it into nitrogen because it’s poisonous. And they just love it when you tie it to something, because a lot of them wear those, that, they do every day."

Lisa Morine
Watkins Mill High School, Maryland

"I had bought the Road Wing Star as it first came out as a pre-production model… and the problem was that it kept blowing head gaskets. It has an aluminum cast engine that has steel bolts holding the head gaskets together, that expanded and contracted. They always asked what happened to my car and we kept talking about it in class, so I got to it a little bit early in the year, but now I talk about it every year and we go through it, because it was a big engineering mistake, that cost the company tons of money. And these things come up all the time, and anytime you can use an example like that, the kids understand it. My kids are starting to drive and this is near their hearts. And the expansion of metals is indeed a huge problem".

Caryn Galatis
Thomas Edison High School, Virginia

" Once that link is established through the wallet, it makes it a point of interest. The ability to discriminate why to buy or choose something or what does a claim mean is important. A favorite of mine is organic and chemical-free advertisements, followed closely by why all those saturated fats have no polyenes in them and vice versa."

Tom Pratuch,
Annandale High School, Virginia


Parrill, Abby L. (2000)' Everyday Chemical Reactions: A Writing Assignment to Promote Synthesis of Concepts and Relevance in Chemistry, 'Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 77, No. 10, pp: 1303-1305.

Discussing chemistry and advertising

Tom Pratuch holds a class discussion about using chemical concepts in advertising.


Editor's Page — Jacobs, M., (1998)' Cheers For Chemical Companies, 'Chemical & Engineering News, Vol. 76, No. 39, pp:1

Roediger, A. (2000)' Let's Talk about It! Using a Graded Discussion Procedure to Make Chemistry Real, 'Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 77, No. 10, pp: 1305-1306.

Reese, K.M., (1999)' Newscripts, 'Chemical & Engineering News, Vol. 77, No. 38, pp:96

Cooperation among scientists

"When we made the first tractors from genetically engineered soy-beans the chemists couldn’t do that — I, by myself, couldn’t do that. We have to bring to the table all of the people who contribute to the different parts of the creative puzzle. You have, sitting around the table, genetic engineers, food scientists, micro-biologists who understand biodegradation processes, composite manufacturing people, who would not let anything above a certain viscosity come into the room, the chemists who must handle all of the connectivity issues, the manufacturing chemical engineers who understand the chemical reactions, all of these people, need to come to the table. And that’s interesting, because when that happens, not only has each one a different part of the puzzle to contribute, but they also have a different way of interpreting how you think."

Professor Richard Wool
University of Delaware


  • Biotechnology and chemistry of soybeans.

Scientific literacy at an early age

"We’ve had third grade clusters coming through our institute lab, to get trained and isolate DNA. They actually cut it with restriction enzymes, they do experiments that I only learned to do as a professor, because it is a field that didn’t exist before. I think that kids have a real fascination with that field, not that the technique was so complicated. We gave them a choice of isolating DNA from lettuce or from hamburger, and they chose hamburger. Then, at the end of the class one of the boys wanted to take the DNA home, and I asked what he wanted to do with it, and he said that he wanted to go home and clone a cow. The fundamental understanding of pre-teens is pretty amazing, so if our educational system improves to that level, quite often students who go into high school have wonderful contacts to place this information."

Dr. J. Craig Venter
Former President, Celera Genomics

Harris, H. H. (1997)' Teaching Secondary School Science: Strategies for Developing Scientific Literacy, 6th ed. (by Leslie W. Trowbridge and Rodger W. Bybee), 'Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 74, No. 10, pp: 1167.

Ordman, A. B. (1996)' Scientific Literature and Literacy: A Course of Practical Skills for Undergraduate Science Majors, 'Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 73, No. 8, pp: 753 (abstract only).

Relating chemistry to modern life

"Young people are very idealistic. They want to think that the things that they do in the future are positive, and God bless them for it... . If we can’t relate what we do in chemistry for the good of the people on the planet and the other species on the planet, I think that we have got a problem — that we are going to attract less and less of the greatly talented young people to the field of chemistry. That’s a vicious cycle effect that doesn’t happen because we really need outstanding chemists to have a sustainable civilization. I think sustainability is the biggest single idea for universities, and by implication for high schools, for the next 100 years."

Dr. Terry Collins
Professor of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University

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