From: ILPI Support <info**At_Symbol_Here**ILPI.COM>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Pyrotechnics in the Teaching Lab- For what purpose?
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2017 13:10:36 -0500
Reply-To: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU>
I think without a doubt the big turnoff is all the math. First year chemistry is full of a lot of gas law equations, acid dissociation constants, etc. It's there for two reasons. First, these are all fundamental concepts that form a foundation - you have to learn the alphabet to know a language. The second is that it's easy to test because it's all math questions, and keep in mind that as a standard service course you have hundreds if not thousands of students each semester that you need to have an easy way of giving homework, tests etc. P-Chem (which is most of freshman chemistry) rocks for those kinds of situations. In fact, based on personal studies and those of my colleagues, the single biggest predictor of success in freshman chemistry is the ACT math score. Very strong correlation. And on top of that, with ACS curriculum standards, you end up cramming every possible thing into the course, and it proceeds at a rapid fire pace. Fall behind, and you're toast.
But along the lines of what Ralph brought up, you have to be a really dynamic and/or engaging teacher to explain to the audience why each of these occasionally mind-numbing topics has relevance to Real Life=E2=84=A2 and to let them know that you as a scientist, do not sit around in a lab all day determining solubility constant of lead iodide etc. A companion to that is that many high school teachers weren't formally trained as chemists and may not understand that very well themselves. This subset is insecure in their own knowledge/mastery and it telegraphs through. They end up teaching a fear of chemistry. And for minorities it's even worse, the lack of role models runs all the way from kindergarten up to the PhD, narrowing massively the whole way.
BTW, I want to recast my early analogy on this topict from making meth to driver's ed. Driver's ed is really boring - we could spice it up a lot if we could do stunts like they do in the movies - that would interest kids a whole bunch more. Why don't we do that? Yeah, that's the ticket-.
Safety Emporium - Lab & Safety Supplies featuring brand names
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I never had one of my chemist colleagues tell me they were attracted to a career in chemistry because of a pyrotechnic demonstration in middle school, high school or college.
Another aspect of this question is how many students are turned off by the hazardous nature of working with spectacular chemistry? Is this possibly part of the reason that less than 20% of the students who take first year chemistry go on to take more advanced chemistry courses?
Ralph Stuart, CIH, CCHO
Chemical Hygiene Officer
Keene State Collegeralph.stuart**At_Symbol_Here**keene.edu
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