My name is Grace Uwase, I am in my second year at Colby College. I am from Boise, Idaho, and I am a chemistry major with an interest in medicine. Over the month of January, I spent most days in the lab, working and reworking my experiments to figure out the best way to share my science- fascination with young students. Before I started college, spending time with children had been part of my daily life, from helping with church children-activities, to volunteering at childcares and babysitting. This course reunited me with the children, not as a playmate but as a teacher, and it really tested my creativity. I designed three activities, all aimed to help students realize that science is all around us, and not just something done in lab with “fancy equipments.”
My first activity “High Speed Energy” is aimed to teach students about nutritional sources of energy, the differences in types of carbohydrates, and they learn how to apply the Scientific Method of inquiry. To help a friend gain her energy back, students hypothesize which drink would give the most energy by testing and comparing sugar content in the drinks. They then test their hypotheses using a fermentation reaction and measuring the drinks’ CO2 production which is proportional to the energy gained from the drinks. To supplement the nutrition discussion, students also test the drinks for protein content. (see High Speed Energy Teacher Kit)
The second activity “Exploring Interactions” teaches students about molecular interactions using detailed observations in everyday objects. Students examine the strength of a string made of different pieces, test hydrophobic and hydrophilic interactions, and learn how different fabrics interact with dye. In this simple activity, students learn the necessity of molecular interactions, and how the strength of these interactions is affected by the nature of the molecules involved. (see Exploring Interactions Teacher Kit )
How often do we think about the chemistry of bleach or why antacids work? Not frequent enough. My third experiment “Hell’s Kitchen” (Hell’s Kitchen Teacher Kit) is aimed to help students think about the abundance of chemical reactions in everyday life. Using only household items, students learn about different types of chemical reactions and examine how the different items interact with each other. In order to revive an unconscious citizen, they must follow clues that require them to carryout various reactions and learn about the underlying chemistry. They use the clues to deduce the cause of her unconsciousness, and come up with the appropriate solution to wake the citizen up.
Describing scientific terms using everyday language, and seeing chemical reactions at play with no complicated equipments will help students to realize that chemistry is not something that is only done in lab, and encourage them to be more curious about seemingly mundane phenomena.