Discussions from the magazine, website and social media

Talk chemistry

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This month there were some updates on previous discussions, and some new ideas.

Teaching resources

Duncan McMillan introduced himself as the newest member of the RSC education team. He would like to hear from you if you have any ideas for new teaching resources

I'll be looking at updating some of our older resources and, where necessary, adding new ones to fill gaps created by developments in chemistry, trends in education, and suchlike. 

I'd like any and all ideas on what new resources (information packs, educational games, lesson plans, etc) you'd like to see. Let me know in a comment, or email me directly. 

Catherine Smith has already responded by suggesting a new game to help A level pupils learn the colours of transition metal complexes. Do you have a good idea? Get in touch! 

Disposing of chemical solutions

John Wasinski prompted some discussion when he asked how he should dispose of the waste 1M copper sulfate solution his class has generated: 

It's advised not to pour this solution down the drain due to fish/plant toxicity. Actually some sources advise that it is fine, but the more exacting reports declare its toxicity, backed with data.  

We have minimal water treatment in our rural area and I don't want to be the cause of any issues in our waters. 

Nessa Carson agreed with Bob Worley that saving the solution for growing crystals with the class (perhaps as a competition?) is a great idea. Do you reuse your solutions for growing crystals? 

Interactive data analysis

Catherine Smith is trying to write an A level physical chemistry practical where the students practice using Excel to analyse data sets: 

Is anyone aware of any interactive computer programmes (ideally that are attached to a website so that software does not need to be installed on school computers) that the students could use to generate appropriate data ideally linked to an A level topic eg kinetics, energy distributions in gas particles, equilibria etc. 

There have been some great ideas suggested already - can you think of any? 

You can read all the contributions in full, and carry on the debate on the Talk Chemistry website.

Top tweets

Blue bird with megaphone

Source: Shutterstock

Here are some of our favourite tweets this issue:

Our Twitter feed alerted @michaelklsto one of his favourite articles on the EiC website which is now free for all to access:

Used this article often! RT @RSC_EiC: Investigating commercial sunscreens - free article from Education in Chemistry 

  • Our video demonstration of burning magnesium in dry ice from the September issue is still popular. @declanfleming said:

    word on the street is that @S_J_Lancaster showed an @RSC_EiC exhibition chem video in his lecture. wasn't the point tho! Do it for real! :) 

    @S_J_Lancaster was quick to reply 

    @declanfleming @rsc_eic gosh the street is powerful. In many ways it's easier to do demos in classroom than lecture theatre. 

  • @Hellsbell joined the debate about the school science practical report:

    Technician career issue MUST be addressed. RT @RSC_EiC: Government makes recommendations on school science practicals      

  • Michael Seery was thrilled to see his review of the Variety in Chemical Education conference in the last issue of EiC:

    My review of #VCE11 now in print thanks to @RSC_EiC. Includes @S_J_Lancaster & @ChemVignette @lowlevelpanic @chemtube3D 

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Alan Crooks wrote on our Facebook wall, in response to the Recommendations on School Science Practicals article. 

I recall, when doing my PGCE, that even experienced chemistry teachers must practice any practicals/demos beforehand to remind themselves of any hazards. In 12 years of teaching I have never worked in a school where such time is built in. 

I did once have an incident where I 'blindly' (ie without giving it sufficient thought) demonstrated an experiment which was described in Spotlight Science 8. It was under the header 'The Big Fight' and said, 'An experiment to heat magnesium oxide with copper is very boring. Nothing happens! However, heating copper oxide with magnesium is much more exciting! There is a big reaction.' 

Muggins decided to demo this in front of the class without practicing it first. The reaction was so violent that it ejected the contents of the boiling tube I used onto the whiteboard. Fortunately, I always follow good practice and point the mouths of test tubes towards a wall when conducting experiments. Subsequently I read the CLEAPSS Hazcard for this and it said. 'Fume hood required. Explosive! Consider using zinc and copper oxide instead' [Ed - the CLEAPSS advice for this reaction has since been updated]. 

Needless to say, I was most embarrassed at having made this error, but it goes to show that teachers should always practice any reactions beforehand.