Saturday, October 20, 2012

Big Week in Chemistry Coming Up!

October 21 - 27, 2012 is National Chemistry Week (NCW) (sponsored by the American Chemical Society) and marks the 25th anniversary of the NCW program designed to promote the value of chemistry in everyday life.  This years theme is Nanotechnology: The Smallest Big Idea In Science and is a partnership between NCW and Nanoscale Informational Science Education Network (NISE).  Yes, a couple of tongue twisters.

Also happening this week is National Mole Day (sponsored by the National Mole Day Foundation)  which takes place 6:02 am and 6:02 pm on October 23 in honor of Avogadro's Number (6.02 × 1023) which is a basic unit of measurement in chemistry (602-1023 is also my colleague's, Mr. Ciccone, phone number, or so he tells his students).  If refers to the number of particles in one mole of substance.

(from the mole day website)
For a given substance, one mole is a mass (in grams) whose number is equal to the atomic mass of the substance.  For example: carbon has an atomic mass 12, therefore one mole of carbon is 12 grams.  One mole of substance contains 6.02 × 1023 particles of that substance.  This relationship was first recognized by Amadeo Avogadro.  Thank you Amadeo!

American Chemical Society
National Mole Day Foundation, Inc

Friday, October 12, 2012

I Could Not Resist!

While I was walking my dog at 5:45 am this Friday morning, 10-12-12, I looked up and a saw two heavenly bodies and went back for my camera.  I could not resist!

waning crescent moon with Venus, other pics on Flicker
The waning crescent moon is slowly disappearing and will completely hide from view on October 14, new moon.  Meanwhile Venus, the morning star will remain bright.  The moon is approximately  374,000 km away while Venus is 169,000,000 km.  The question for my students on Monday who are currently learning about light waves is how does it take the light to reach us for both objects.  The solution is to convert the lengths to meters and divide them by the speed of light (3.0e8 m/s).
[answers: 1.2 seconds - moon, 9.4 minutes - Venus]

Monday, October 8, 2012


Every year our school system has a new focus, or directive, or panacea to save education, or whatever.  If I sound a little skeptical, it's because it usually involves more time and not very useful information.  All of this in the long run means less time assist my students and less time to develop and modify my classes.  Also, they usually end up scrapped a few years later.  However, this year I am more positive and actually think it might be useful.

Let me explain:
1) Each teacher(s) will develop a Benchmark Assessment (BA) for their subject.  The BA will be connected to appropriate Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and/or mimic some type of rigorous standardized test.

  • Since chemistry as well as some other subjects are not part of the the CAPT Exam, the exam taken in 10th grade that Connecticut students are required to pass before they graduate, we (myself and Tony Ciccone) used the SAT II in Chemistry and the NY State Chemistry Regents to create our BA.  Also, we used the new (2014) AP Chemistry Big Ideas for our Standards.  Lastly, our assessment is designed to be 45 minutes in length.
  • Four BA will be given beginning in October then in December followed by two more in the second semester.
  • Since the assessment is comprehensive, the students are not expected to score will on the first BA but improve throughout the year.
  • The expectation is that we will evaluate and analyze the results make changes to our instruction as necessary. 

2) Each teacher will use the school-wide learning expectation rubrics and develop authentic learning projects and consistent applications of grading rubrics.  

  • We will evaluate and provide evidence of how we are using the data from our assessments to inform instruction for classes as well as individual students.
The analysis is the critical piece of this pie.  The hard part will be for the students to take them seriously, thus acquiring meaningful data.  I am hopeful that we will be able to modify and align our curriculum to the Standards as well which is why I think this years' focus is useful, although I think this is going to take more time than the powers at be think.

As a side note: 
The following year, teacher evaluations in Connecticut are supposed to be based 40% on standardized test scores.  YIPPEE!  ITS HERE - TEACH TO THE TEST!!!  These BA will most likely serve as a basis for upper division subjects such as chemistry which there is no one standardized test that everyone in the state takes.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

This Month's Winner of the Coveted Award!


Just getting ready to start my unit on atomic theory I have selected Marie Curie (1867-1934) as this month's Featured Scientist winner.  She was born Maria Sklodowska in WarsawPoland to well-know teachers.  While growing up in Poland the young Maria was sent to a boarding school for primary education.  Because most higher educational institutions at the time did not admit women, Maria and her sister attended a Flying University which operated in Poland.  In 1891 she along with her older sister went to Paris.  Once there, she took classes at the University of Paris (Sorbanne) and tutored eventually earning a degree in Physics in 1893 and Mathematics in 1894.  

Around this time she became romantically involved with French physicist Pierre Curie and eventually married him.  At first they worked on separate projects, however, they soon took up interest in the work of Henri Becquerela French physicist who discovered that uranium casts off rays.  Marie theorized the rays were due to the atomic structure of the element.  This opened the new field of atomic physics and she coined the phenomena radioactivity.  She and Pierre would later discover the elements Polonium and Radium.  Marie shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with Pierre and Henri Becquerel making her the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.  Unfortunately Pierre was killed in a horse carriage accident 1906.  In 1911, she won a second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry.  During World War I, Marie and her daughter Irene Joliot-Curie set up portable X-ray machines to be used in the field.  

Former winners of the Featured Scientist