Electrons in Service

Last week, we finished exploring the periodic table and atomic structure. Knowing we needed to wrap up the unit but not wanting to give a test, I decided to try a mini project. I teach general and honors chemistry at the same time in the same room, so I created two different mini projects.

For General Chemistry:

Students created an infographic about the periodic table. The infographic had to include vocabulary, images, and demonstrate what we had learned. To start, students had to create a hand drawn, rough draft. I required this before they were allowed to open their devices (Chromebooks, laptops, etc.). I know infographics for everything already exist, so the rough draft requirement reduced the temptation to find one out there and recreate it. Instead, small groups had to work together using what they had learned to create a visual of their understanding. I also made this a little bit of a competition. I told them the best infographic created by the classes would be printed and hung on my wall. I’m not always a fan of competition in the classroom, but this worked well for this group of students.

For Honors Chemistry:

Students created a 3-D model of something that uses electrons. Then, they presented their models along with an explanation of how the electrons work in that item. Each group had to choose a unique product to build. I was impressed by the range of items created (solar panels, batteries, television, toaster, and even a taser model, plus more). The students’ explanations also impressed me. After presentations, I asked the students if this was a worthwhile activity. They all responded with enthusiasm, “We learned sooo much.”

A couple of key points.

1. I did not create a rubric or scoring guide for either project. I fully intended to and then ran out of time. In retrospect, I’m not sure it mattered. The products were more than I had envisioned.

2. I only gave the groups two class periods to brainstorm, rough draft, and build. On day one they were in a panic. On day two, I started class telling them I was not expecting a 5 minute report on all of the details. I assured them I did not want them to spend hours at home on this, but instead hoped they would finish by the end of class so they could present the next day. I think this alleviated some anxiety and encouraged them to be more efficient with their time in the classroom.

3. I encouraged creativity. If groups asked to go out to the recycle bin, I let them. I embraced the chaos and had fun watching them get into the projects.

4. I asked questions as they worked. “Tell me about your model”, “Where do the electrons come from?”, “What kinds of elements are in this device?”, “What does that word mean?” that last question helped them uncover words like photon, anode, and cathode.

5. The experience was different for the two groups of students, general chem and honors chem. However, the presentations allowed both groups to see the work of the other.

I hope you find something in this post you can use in your classroom. 🙂

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