on the topic of Science Teaching
“Wow! That is so cool!”
When I heard that comment from John, one of my at-risk students, my heart did a little dance because I knew that I had him hooked. You would think that I had some elaborate demonstration or lab exercise that was the source of John’s enthusiasm, however, this was not the case. All it took was a little wax paper, a popsicle stick and a couple of drops of water.
As a student who struggles in most of his subjects, John approaches all of his classes with some resistance. In the past, when I have approached chemistry concepts, I have always cringed a bit because of learners like John. I knew that since many of the concepts that we would be covering were so abstract, many struggling learners would have difficulty conceptualizing and making sense of the content. It was, in part, due to these students why I chose to implement the Middle School Chemistry (MSC) lessons into my curriculum.
I began this year’s chemistry journey by covering a topic that my students had some familiarity with: solids, liquids and gases. Most of my students were able to identify a substance as either a solid, liquid or gas and they could list some of the properties that each of them possessed. Many students, though, had no idea why or how solids, liquids and gases behaved as they do. In order to dive deeper into this concept, I used lesson 1.1 from MSC.
In this lesson, students simply observed the behavior of a water droplet. In order to observe the attraction of water molecules, students tried to split their water droplet and then to push their separated droplet back together. This was a simple task, yet it was enough to get my students curious about why their droplets behaved in that manner.
After the exploration, I engaged my students in a conversation about what was happening at the molecular level. The MSC provided excellent animations on how the molecules in liquid water behave. These animations were a great alternative to the still images that are found in textbooks since they illustrated not only the arrangement of the molecules, but also the way that they moved past one another.
As John and my other students left the room asking about what “cool” things we were going to do tomorrow, I can truly say that I was no longer cringing about how my chemistry unit was going to go!