Chemistry Students Learn by Doing
Why are hands-on labs so important? What can a student learn from this approach? My favorite part of teaching science classes is performing labs. Experiments allow students to learn the material in a different way and for many students a better, more fun way. The goal is to “think” about what they are doing and not just memorize facts.
During the school year, my classes conduct many fun and educational labs. In chemistry class, one of our favorite labs is testing the pH of various household products. Students learn proper laboratory techniques while discovering the basic or acidic strength of a solution. Students are often surprised by the results, especially of common solutions that they use every day. When it is not possible to assign a lab due to equipment or material limitations, I perform demonstrations in class. During the acid and base chapter, I show students that our breath is acidic because of CO2. By adding a universal indicator (a substance that changes due to pH levels) to water and using a straw to blow bubbles, students see a color change and analyze what the results indicate.
A chemistry student tests various solutions with pH paper. We use pH paper and litmus paper to show the precision and accuracy of various techniques.
Many homeschool students do not learn how to properly use lab equipment because they are not afforded the opportunity to use certain instruments, but it is my goal to teach them how to use even the most basic equipment correctly.
A chemistry student is properly using a gram scale to measure baking soda for our Law of Conservation of Mass Lab. The Law of Conservation of Mass demonstrates the idea that mass is not created or destroyed during a chemical reaction. We use baking soda and vinegar for a great reaction that is easy to measure and control.
Although it is important to learn the correct use of laboratory equipment, it is also possible to perform analytical labs using household products.
A student uses kitchen supplies to perform her lab.
The goal for every lab that we perform is to develop deep, analytical thinking. We want to put into practice what we are learning in our textbooks and deepen our understanding of the materials.
Please feel free to check out more information about our science classes at excelsiorclasses.com. I will be teaching Chemistry and Anatomy & Physiology again next year.
About the Author
Kerrie Childress has a love for science that she desires to pass along to every student she teaches. She graduated in 1996 with a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry from Bob Jones University and in 2001 with a M.A. in Health and Exercise Science from Furman University. She has over 15 years of teaching experience in 3 states and several different platforms. Kerrie is also currently teaching on-line for a local community college as well as teaching science classes at Excelsior Classes.