Are chemicals dangerous?

Students think of “chemicals” as things that are dangerous, kept in bottles, and only accessed at special times for special experiments. I have found this idea that “chemicals” are dangerous to be so pervasive, I decided to start my chemistry (matter/energy) units with an activity about what chemicals really are and whether or not they are dangerous.

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The best way to use textbooks: to build ramps

In the experiment, the students roll a marble down the ramp and vary the height of the ramp. The marble will go faster the higher it starts (more kinetic energy coming from more potential energy) but, in a low resources classroom, we don’t have a way to measure the speed of the ball. Fortunately, the faster the ball is going (higher ramp) the farther the ball will push the cup when the ball hits the cup at the end of the ramp. We can use the distance that the cup moves as a substitute for the speed.

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May the (balanced and unbalanced) forces be with you

Physics is Phun, especially when EVERYTHING is possible. If you are not yet familiar with the PhET simulations, prepare to have your world be revolutionized. These little apps are amazing for letting students “tinker” with the world and figure things out on their own, no mess or danger involved. It even better now that PhET has started developing sims in HTML5 instead of JAVA/Flash so the sim runs on any platform (including Chromebooks).

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Atomic models….and many dead white dudes

The concept of the atom – a smaller part that makes up everything – seems so self-obvious to those of us “in the know” that sometimes it can be difficult to remember that atoms are not something students regularly think about or contemplate. Nevertheless, we must teach about atoms and, even more than that, the smaller parts that make up atoms.

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