Chemistry students use labs for advanced investigations

Matthew Oakley
Matthew Oakley

VAMPY 2015 has gotten off to a great start! In the Advanced Investigations in Chemistry class, students will gain knowledge, valuable lab experience, and also get an advanced look into chemistry careers that will better prepare them for a future in the science fields. Our main purpose is to prepare the students for an advanced level chemistry class at their high school and college.

We have hit the ground running. Students have been going over refresher material, and reviewing the basics of chemistry. The main goal of our course is to give the students an opportunity to take an investigative approach to understanding the material. This means that they do not necessarily get the directions directly, but have to use critical thinking and problem solving to “investigate” the experiments.

To understand this approach, the students opened up with two labs that included using Lab Quest probes and antifreeze. By using the Lab Quest probes, the students were able to investigate and track the temperature of water as it was heated and cooled. This was a basic lab that helped get students comfortable in the lab environment.

It was also the introduction to our investigative approach in which students are given a researchable question. Each group must then come up with their own procedures and lab techniques to test their researchable question and analyze data obtained from the experiments. The second lab included a more advanced approach in which students used their “investigative” approach to determine the molar mass of antifreeze.

Our third lab, that we participated in yesterday, was a chemical reactions lab. In this laboratory experiment, nine different stations were set up where students were able to perform different reactions. As a precursor to this experiment, students reviewed predicting products and also solubility rules.

In our class, the favorite activity was the reaction of zinc metal and hydrochloric acid. This reaction is very exothermic, making it very warm to the touch, and hydrogen bubbles were produced that could be ignited. Another favorite was the decomposition of ammonium dichromate. When heat is applied to the solid, a green solid is formed and the material expands very rapidly.

Overall it has been a great start and we look forward to what the summer will bring. Our group of students are excellent and are investigating and learning new material every day.