Rethinking the Classroom Laboratory

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  • Chemical Education Today Vol. 81 No. 9 September 2004 Journal of Chemical Education 1241

    Especially for High School Teachersby Diana S. Mason

    Rethinking the Classroom Laboratory

    Secondary School Featured Articles Conceiving of Concept Maps To Foster Meaningful

    Learning: An Interview with Joseph D. Novak, byLiberato Cardellini, p 1303

    Discrepant Event: The Great Bowling Ball Float-Off, byDiana Mason, William F. Griffith, Sharon E. Hogue,Kathleen Holley, Kirk Hunter, p 1309.

    JCE Classroom Activity: #64. Bowling for Density!, byKathleen Holley, Diana Mason, Kirk Hunter, p 1312A.

    Congratulations are in order for the 2004 U.S. Chem-istry Olympiad team that is on its way to Kiel, Germany forthe 36th international competition (1). More than 50 teamswill compete in this years event, July 1827. The team members include EricBrown, McCallie School, Chattanooga,TN; John I. Kiappes, Jr. Memorial HighSchool, Houston, TX; Emily Tsui, Mont-gomery Blair High School, Silver Spring,MD; and Fan Zhang, Bergen CountyAcademics, Hackensack, NJ. Also, weacknowledge the contributions of theteams teachers and coaches who assisted and mentored themat the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. GoTeam U.S.A.!

    About a year ago, I walked into a lab of a friend ofmine, Kirk Hunter, and asked why he had a bowling ballon his lab bench. He asked if I thought the ball would float.I said, Well, in water, of course not. Bowling balls are large,dense, heavy, and they sink. Then Kirk showed me. It floated!He then said, Do the math. I knew right away that we hadto share this activity (p 1312AB). Try it and read about us-ing discrepant events as a teaching tool (p 1309).

    Do you have an idea, activity, vision to share with ourreaders? I bet you do! To find out more about submittingJCE Classroom Activities see Would my encounter have been as exciting ifKirk and I had just talked about it? No, he had to show me.It was after I actually performed the activity that I had ameaningful learning experience.

    Direct laboratory experience is one of the best ways tobring home lessons and have meaningful learning experi-ences. If you have any doubt, read Longs summary of sev-eral articles published by The Science Teacher (p 1254). Foran opposing view, check out Hawkess commentary (p1257). Laboratory experiences may not always improve con-ceptual understanding, but when teachers foster experien-tial learning they provide students with marketable skills andthe means to connect theory with reality. Concept mappingtechniques developed by Novak (p 1303) are one way toencourage students to make these connections for them-selves. When cognitive restructuring occurs meaningfullearning will follow.

    The Journal not only publishes interesting articles andtested activities but it also shares tidbits of information thatmight be lost to obscurity if not recorded. Jensen (p 1258)enlightens us on the origin of the use of alcohol proof andhow the term has considerably different meanings across theglobe. Whelan et al. (p 1299) provide us with additionalengaging examples using household items, such as havingstudents evaluate the lead content in hair dyes or identifythe differences between fresh and canned orange juices.Peer-assisted learning has been used for several years at thepost-secondary level, but using your students as role models

    for other students may be exactly what is needed to moti-vate underachievers and encourage your peer-leaders to seepotentials in themselves that they did not know existed (p1313). Also, in this issue of the Journal there are several ideason becoming a cost-effective teacher that Harris has found(see pp 1337, 1339, 1341, and 1344 for some very inter-esting and practical ideas).

    Academic Year 20042005 CalendarThe 20042005 academic year is going to be a big one

    for science in Texas. Please tell me about upcoming eventsin your neck of the woods. Mark your calendars:

    ACS Southwest Regional Meeting (SWRM), Ft.Worth, TX, September 29October 2; (accessed Jul 2004).

    Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching(CAST), Corpus Christi, TX, November 46; (accessed Jul2004).

    National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), Dallas,TX, March 31April 3; (accessedJul 2004).

    National Association for Research in Science Teach-ing (NARST), Dallas, TX, April 47; (ac-cessed Jul 2004).

    Associated Chemistry Teachers of Texas (ACT2)Biennial, Denton, TX, July 59; (accessed Jul 2004).

    Consider attending the Gordon Research Conference onChemistry Education Research and Practice, ConnecticutCollege, June 26July 1, 2005 (, accessed Jul 2004) and ChemEd05 in Vancouver, BC, Canada, July 31August 4, 2005(, accessed Jul 2004).

    Literature Cited

    1. Mehta, A. U.S. Olympiad Team Chosen. Chem. Eng. News2004, 82 (26), 12. (accessed Jul 2004).


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