Monthly Archives: November 2014

Mints, Fire, and Crime

This coming week Jill and I are leading our series of lessons at our placement.  For this mini-unit we are teaching electron excitation and are trying really hard to ground our students’ learning in real world.  For this we have come up with the Wint-o-green triboluminescence experiment, a human model of electron excitation (See Jill’s blog), a flame test investigation, and an investigation into spectroscopic lines.  It seems, and is, a lot to accomplish in only three or four days (depending how much time the students need for each assignment) but we’ve been wrestling a lot recently about whether what we have planned would be enough, because (as we’ve all heard a billion times before in Summer B) “hands-on is not enough.”

We, or at least I am, completely, totally, a billion percent psyched for all of our activities to do in the two general chemistry classes.  For one, what student doesn’t want to see their teachers climbing on stools and throwing M&M’s to each other (See Jill’s post for more on this), or who doesn’t want to change the color of a bunsen burner flame into any color of the rainbow, and lastly (and the one I’m most excited for) who doesn’t want to do a lab investigation into spectroscopic lines that starts with a short video of Miss Weber and Miss Kramer committing mysterious crimes involving fluorescent light bulbs (that can be identified by spectroscopic lines)??? I’d like to think no one doesn’t want to partake in those activities but it’s inevitable that someone might have a bad day or just not care so much about making mints flash light in your mouth that day.  Also, because of timing issues in class we have to start one class off with notes that our CT has already given to the other class.  This is making re-syncing the two classes difficult.

Significant changes to our plans have happened since its conception, due mostly in part to input from our supervisors and other advisors, but also because of Jill’s ingenuity to preface our final summative lab assessment with a relevant, funny, and engaging video clip of us presenting a series of mysterious crimes to our students to solve.  We’ve also decided to change our flame test from an actual lab to a demonstration, but to improve student engagement and increase its “cool” factor (although for fire-based labs I don’t know how much that is necessary) by changing the procedure form burning wooden splints soaked in salt solutions to using spray bottles to mist the flame in salt solution.  After our tests on Friday last week this turns out to work really well (except for if you spray too closely to the flame and extinguish it) so our CT is looking forward to using the spray bottle technique in the future.  Our human model (again, see my PIC’s blog for more on that) also should provide much better basis for understanding than diagrams or regular notes.  By combining YouTube videos and outside suggestions we’ve come up with a way that has already worked very well in improving our Regents class’s understanding of the concept.

Overall, I’m excited but there seems to be so so so much more do to for this than for STARS.  Also, I’ve noticed I feel less comfortable when I’m not the only teacher figure in the room so I will need to do a lot of personal chances to make sure I come across the way I hope to … the first challenge of which will be learning not to always talk over Jill, which after being a single team leader for STARS will provide me with a huge challenge.