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Inspirational Chemistry

Vicky Wong’s “Inspirational Chemistry – Resources for Modern Curricula” (IC) was produced in the run up to the 2006 curriculum changes with a view to getting more modern chemistry contexts being introduced into lessons.

Thumbing through the book, it feels as if you’re getting the opportunity to sit down with an experienced teacher who has had time to research and prepare some quality demonstrations, practicals (both variations on classics and completely novel ideas), starters, guided question sheets, modelling exercises and other activities. You then get to nick the lot!


More after the jump ...
Inspirational Chemistry was written with adaptability in mind and although you could use any resource straight away, you’ll get the most out of the resources following a bit of input to make sure that the style of questions and the skills required are suitable for your students. For example, IC works through key areas broadly in the order you’re likely to cover them (starting with metal extraction) but many of the early resources include quantitative questions that your
students may not be able to answer at this stage (of course it’s better to leave them included so that you can remove them if inappropriate but use them if not).

One of the resources provided is a series of sheets on the production of titanium – something that can easily be glossed over as an afterthought to aluminium production.

Vicky has done a lot of research into an area which has had surprisingly recent developments that have the capacity to change the way we use this metal. The resulting resources provide a good opportunity to work through a contemporary chemistry story from discovery to potential future developments.

There are some pictures provided on the sheet “what’s the connection” (numerically last in the resources) which would be a useful starter to get students thinking about the ways we use titanium. “Titanium” sets the scene by reminding students how iron and other metals are extracted from their ores and why the same process would be
inappropriate for titanium. “Titanum extraction” uses the traditional Kroll Process to practice balancing equations, the properties of noble gases, and atom economy. “21st Century Titanium” explains the recent discovery of a vastly superior electrolytic alternative process. Students use half equations and ideas of atom economy to explain and
compare this process with the Kroll process. The first question on this sheet may need adapting or explaining to your students as the description of the process is not immediately clear. “Titanium, from discovery to Mars” looks at exciting future developments and explores how discoveries are scaled up.

Vicky’s excitement about these recent developments come through in the resources and the supporting material in the teacher guide. If you’re thinking “death by sheets!”, there are a number of alternative ideas suggested in the teaching guide for ways you could cover the same material.

Ironically although this resource was designed for curriculum 2006 it may yet prove most useful when we go linear again because of the multiple idea threads that are brought together. You may not have time to go back to titanium in additional science when you will have covered many of these ideas but for a linear course, this resource would make an excellent revision and assimilation activity to follow the teaching of aluminium extraction to an additional science class.

One thing you may need to be careful of in your specification is that student remember the “right” answer for the way titanium is extracted in your syllabus!

Some of these activities have become deeply embedded in school science lessons since 2006. You’d be hard pushed to find a student now who makes it to the end of KS4 without coming across PVA “slime” and as you might suggest, this activity is suggested in IC. There are lots more ideas though that are worth looking at. One of these is the production of alginate “worms” which have the potential to be as stimulating as slime practicals but bring together
ideas about the charge on and size of ions. I plan to steal this for a small unit of work I’m doing with my enrichment classes on food science to come before a little session on molecular gastronomy!

From nanotech socks through chocolate polymorphism to the Large Hadron Collider. This resource keeps on giving chemistry contexts.
Posted by Declan Fleming on Oct 27, 2011 1:17 AM Europe/London

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