Teaching Is a Privilege - American Chemical Society

Dec 12, 2009 - Recently, I have spent many hours working with seven stu- dents as they develop their own demonstrations and hands-on activities focusi...
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Chemical Education Today

Especially for High School Teachers

Teaching Is a Privilege


Laura E. Slocum and Erica K. Jacobsen

Recently, I have spent many hours working with seven students as they develop their own demonstrations and hands-on activities focusing on elements—the theme of this year’s National Chemistry Week (NCW)—“Chemistry—It’s Elemental!” What a special privilege this has been for me. My love of chemistry and my desire to share that love with others is coming to life in these students. Giving students the opportunity to “do chemistry” is one of my primary goals, and these students are doing that as they teach others how to do chemistry safely. The students have taken ideas from past laboratory experiments—the lighting of a piece of Mg ribbon, or video clips from Periodic Table Live! (the addition of sodium to water, see the images below)—or searches through the literature, especially the Journal and the Internet, and adapted them to fit their presentation style. This came about when a faculty member at my school asked if I would be interested in reaching out to a small, private school in downtown Indianapolis, IN. I answered with a resounding Yes! The school’s eighth-grade science teacher was thrilled to have us come to her two science classes of 21 students each. When I asked our junior and senior classes for volunteers, seven students—3 boys and 4 girls—immediately came forward and were really excited to share their passion for chemistry with the younger students, especially during NCW. This kind of student enthusiasm makes me feel very special as a teacher. As I write this editorial, the students are still developing some of the demonstrations. The school visit will occur in two weeks, during NCW. They have already selected demos and hands-on activities that focus on elements in groups 1, 2, 16, 17, and 18. The students have taken charge of their own organization and planning; my role has been to make sure everything is safe and the materials the students need are available. In this Journal issue, the article by McCarthy and Widanski (p 1447) especially spoke to me about the importance of my role as a high school chemistry teacher. The authors report on “chemistry anxiety” and address several issues from their research. Their data on different types of chemistry anxiety indicate that handling chemicals ranked second of chemistry anxieties, more anxiety-provoking even than learning chemistry. By allowing my students to share their passion for chemistry with younger students, I hope the younger students will see the passion and “fun” of exploring chemistry and not have as many fears as they grow up. This also gives the older students the opportunity to handle chemicals in a new situation and to plan, test, and perform a demonstration. I hope this lowers the older students’ anxiety. This type of exchange that we have with our students and then share with each other in the Journal is what teaching is all about, from my perspective. So, as 2009 draws to a close, remember that Erica and I are here to help each of you share ideas from


Erica’s Take on the Issue I was glad Laura highlighted McCarthy and Widanski’s article (p 1447). High school educators browsing through the table of contents might think the triangle (◭) next to “Assessment of Chemistry Anxiety in a Two-Year College” is a typo. Don’t let the title fool you. The article discusses the existence of anxiety toward chemistry in three areas: learning chemistry, chemistry evaluation, and handling chemicals. The authors state, “Recognizing the existence [of chemistry anxiety] is the first step in reducing negative attitudes toward chemistry”—an issue of which educators on any level should be aware. American Chemical Society 2010 Spring Meeting If you are attending the ACS’s spring national meeting in San Francisco, don’t miss the High School Day program. The meeting’s overall theme is “Chemistry for a Sustainable World”; the High School Day organizers are coordinating their program with this theme. Early materials state that presentations will “make the case for green chemistry” and will include hands-on activities, information about available resources, and discussion of how to smoothly implement green chemistry in your own curriculum. JCE will present “Go Green for Earth Day with the Journal of Chemical Education”, which will include JCE resources for the green chemistry theme and Earth Day 2010, and a soon-to-bepublished JCE Classroom Activity.

your classroom, a laboratory, an activity, and so forth with your fellow colleagues. Just ask. Secondary School Featured Article ◭

Epstein, J. L. Weapons of Mass Destruction 101: It Is All about Chemistry. J. Chem. Educ. 2009, 86, 1377–1381.

Supporting JCE Online Material http://www.jce.divched.org/Journal/Issues/2009/Dec/abs1357.html Full text (HTML and PDF) Blogged at http://expertvoices.nsdl.org/chemeddl/

Laura E. Slocum is Associate Editor, Secondary School Chemistry, Journal of Chemical Education, lslocum@universityhighschool. org; Erica K. Jacobsen is Editor, Secondary School Chemistry, Journal of Chemical Education, [email protected].

Sodium: Reaction with Water (Periodic Table Live, http://www. chemeddl.org/collections/ptl/PTL/ elements/Na/frames.html)

© Division of Chemical Education  •  www.JCE.DivCHED.org  •  Vol. 86  No. 12  December 2009  •  Journal of Chemical Education