Journal of Chemical Education Sep 2012 Issue

1. The Grapes of Class: Teaching Chemistry Concepts at a Winery

Nonscience majors often believe that the concepts and techniques in chemistry have little relevance to someone outside the “ivy-covered walls of academia”. The challenge for science instructors is to develop and implement lessons that present science in a way that will capture the interest of the nonscience major, while remaining rigorous enough to satisfy the college’s and program’s student-learning outcomes. We have used an activity, a trip to the vineyard, to engage nonscience-major college students in a “laboratory” using scientific instruments in a real-world setting. Students were given a tour of the vineyard and shown the process of wine making. At various points on the tour, each student was guided in the usage of laboratory equipment to determine sugar content, pH, specific gravity, alcohol content, and to perform random sampling. This activity introduced the students to chemistry instrumentation as well as general science concepts. Read more…(subscription required)

2. The Five Senses of Christmas Chemistry

This article describes the organic chemistry of five compounds that are directly associated with the Christmas season. These substances and related materials are presented within the framework of the five senses: silver fulminate (sound), α-pinene (sight), sodium acetate (touch), tryptophan (taste), and gingerol (smell). Connections with the introductory organic curriculum are emphasized throughout to illustrate how the following lecture topics can be reviewed or introduced each November and December: Lewis structures, resonance theory, constitutional isomers, stereoisomers, cycloalkane ring conformations, thermodynamics, acids and bases, nucleophiles and electrophiles, carbonyl condensation reaction mechanisms, and functional group transformations. Read more…(subscription required)

3. An Inquiry-Based Density Laboratory for Teaching Experimental Error

4. Conceptual Questions and Lack of Formal Reasoning: Are They Mutually Exclusive?

Using specially designed conceptual question pairs, 9th grade students were tested on tasks (presented as experimental situations in pictorial form) that involved controlling the variables’ scheme of formal reasoning. The question topics focused on these three chemical contexts: chemistry in everyday life, chemistry without formal concepts, and chemistry with formal concepts. The second task of each question pair contained three additional questions, designed according to the pillars of the cognitive acceleration through science education (CASE) intervention, which represents a set of activities using the schemata of formal operations aimed at improving children’s thinking by accelerating progress towards formal operations in Piaget’s terms. The first task did not have these questions. Results showed that some students could solve conceptual problems with specially designed additional questions even when the students could not solve the conceptual problems without such help. Statistical analysis revealed a correlation between the construction–metacognition additional question and the main cognitive conflict question in the second context of chemistry without formal concepts. The results indicate that conceptual questions designed using the CASE pillars have the potential of accelerating students’ formal reasoning abilities. Read more…(subscription required)

Book review

A Student’s Guide to Data and Error Analysis, by Herman J. C.Berendsen. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2011. 225 pp. IBSN 978-0521134927 (softcover) $29.99.

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