Friday, June 15, 2012


I have been assigning a Final Project for the the students to complete during the last week of school before final exams for the past three years.  The end of the year project morphed out of my original assignment which I gave after the first month of school and was to have students research a scientist who contributed to atomic theory.  This became rather boring for me since students kept choosing the same scientists from year-to-year.  Add to that, the students have not had that much chemistry yet so their knowledge was limited.  At the suggestion of Mike Sirowich, a.k.a. The Physics Teacher at Seymour, I moved the project to the end of the year for a couple reasons: 1) the students have more chemistry behind them so they can go more in depth with their research and 2) it is very difficult to hold the students attention during the final weeks of the school year.

Another change that I made from the early days was to open the topic of study list.  In its new form students can choose from the following list:

·      Explore the life and contributions of a famous chemist/scientist
·      A unit we have covered this year (atomic theory, electrons, organic molecules, etc.)
·      A topic and integrate content from several units (synthesis of a compound, distillation, refrigeration, etc.)
·      Medical or other devices used in chemistry (CAT scans, X-ray, PET, MRI, electron microscopy, GC, GC/MS, etc.)
·      Other topic/experiment with instructor approval 

This new approach has given the students more choices in what they want to do as some would rather do an experiment or research a topic.  Also new this year , thanks Mike, was having each student who did a group project assess each their team members.  They simply handed me a sheet of paper indicating what they did and what the other members DID or DID NOT do.   The last of Mike's ideas incorporated into the project was to create Google Form where each student comments and rates each presentation at the conclusion.  Students were able to link to the short form with cell phones or laptops.  This kept most everyone's interest throughout the talks and provided positive feedback to the students.

Of the 36 total projects, 12 were of scientists, 4 involved cooking or baking, 7 involved students performing experiments, and 11 were of various chemistry topics.  I learned many new things this year and found a new demo.

Students from Period A did a presentation on Newton, another team did Galileo, and  a third complimented the first two be doing the broad topic of Relativity.

Students from Period B did reaction experiments using Mentos and soda while another group made and filmed the chemistry of baking chocolate covered cupcakes.  They were delicious!

Students from Period G focused on topics such as X-rays and chemotherapy, however, one group baked pizza while another group attempted to see if there was a relation between Mentos and acidity in soda.  Could Mentos be used an indicator?  The results were indicated that it was not a good indicator.

Students from Period H mainly did scientists such as Einstein and Curie but one group made ice cream and another person baked bread.  Unfortunately she forgot to convert to Fahrenheit so we could not sample the product.

My AP Chem class (Period C) students focused on experimentation such as Mentos, chromatography, fire works, and wood gas.  Another student found a penny from the 1800s in her backyard and did experiments cleaning it.  The results indicate 6.0 M acetic acid with a concentrated salt solution works the best.  Lastly, a student synthesized nitrogen triiodide and then let it do its thing.  It is so unstable that when it dries any perturbation sets it off.  Spectators are treated to a loud explosion with purple smoke.  Unfortunately you never know when it goes off as the first batch went off unexpectedly during a different class.  I found a new Demo!

I would love to show off the students with their creations but our school district, as most are, is hesitant when showing students or even printing their names without parental notification.  In order to get that I would have to fill out paperwork in triplicate and send it home for the  parents to fill out as well.  Hopefully I will be able edit out names and such to show off some of their work.

1 comment:

  1. I'm reading this a bit late but I wanted to add a comment anyway...I talked to a few students who did a project using baking as the medium and they really seemed to enjoy being able to merge the two topics together. It makes it more applicable when knowledge from one course comes in contact with another.