I teach a diverse group of students. By ethnicity, our school is 38% White, 30% Hispanic, 10% Filipinos, 5% Asians. The remaining groups are Pacific Islanders, African Americans, and American Indians. 22% are socioeconomically disadvantaged, 10% are students with disabilities, and 3% are English Language learners.
Beginning SY 2019-20, all sophomores are taking Chemistry as part of our implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards.
However, I have students who do not have that much confidence that they will do well in chemistry. Nevertheless, they are very much interested to do "chem" stuff. They are willing to learn and they thrive well when we do hands-on activities that allow them to collaborate with their peers.
I also teach one AP Chemistry and two AP Environmental Science classes. They are passionate about the environment and are very much engaged in doing citizen science and participating in community projects such as habitat restoration, beach clean up, recycling campaigns, and conducting surveys to increase community awareness of environmental issues. The commitment to be productive members of their community is fueled by engaging and relevant hands on activities in the science classroom. Having access to lab supplies and equipment helps make this possible.
For the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to be taught properly and effectively, laboratory investigations must be a key component of every science class. Students must be given the opportunity to design investigations, manipulate tools and equipment, collect and analyze data, and discuss and share results with their peers.
A fully equipped laboratory will allow students to engage in both traditional and inquiry-based labs that will make chemistry more than just something they read about and memorize but a way to make sense of the natural world and develop both critical and creative thinking skills.
By giving students opportunity to design their own investigations, they also develop collaboration and communication skills which are critical 21st century skills. Examples of labs that they will be able to do include a water analysis of a local creek, consumer chemistry such as determining the % of acetic acid in different brands of vinegar, designing a simple, inexpensive hot pack and separating the microbeads from personal care products using filtration as part of a unit on microplastic pollution. Labs such as these show that chemistry is not inert but instead a course that will help them understand everyday phenomena and issues that both their local and global community face. Conducting meaningful laboratory investigations helps develop scientific and environmental literacy which is integral in implementing a science curriculum responsive and relevant to the needs of students navigating life in the 21st century.
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