Take Home Labs

By AACT on March 19, 2020

Teaching chemistry remotely is challenging even under ideal circumstances, but the emergence of COVID-19 is making it even more difficult. ACS and AACT are committed to helping teachers provide quality resources to help them deliver engaging lessons to their students in the coming weeks. The following teaching resources are currently unlocked and open to all educators and parent to use with their students.

In March 2017, the article Take Home Labs: Making Science Real was published in Chemistry Solutions, AACT’s online periodical. The article helps answer an ongoing question: How do we provide students with more lab time? Amiee Modic from Katy, TX, explained how take home labs can cover new concepts, review material, provide extra credit, and provide increased exposure to science in everyday life.

Given the current circumstances, take home labs can engage your students with chemistry experiments safely while they are learning remotely. All of the labs mentioned in the article are from the AACT resource library and are open and available for download.

Using the Aspirin Tablets: Are they all the Same? lab, your students can design an experiment to test the time it takes to dissolve three types of aspirin in solutions with different pHs. All of the materials needed for this investigation can probably be found in your home: tablets of regular strength aspirin, buffered, and enteric-coated aspirin (see label to determine the type), water, vinegar, baking soda, measuring cups and spoons, and clear colorless drinking glasses.

Students can investigate the relationships between mass, volume, density, and buoyancy of common objects with the Can it Float? lab. They are tasked with determining the volume of a variety of objects and interpreting the meaning of their buoyancy in water. The items used in this activity are: measuring cups, water, canned soft drinks, candy bars, fruits, and a large container.

Students can use the Abe Goes Swimming lab to lead them through an investigation of surface tension by comparing the number of drops of water or rubbing alcohol that can be held on the surface of a penny. There is also an option to investigate surfactants. Common household items are used in this activity: pennies, eyedropper, plastic cup, liquid soap, paper towels, water, rubbing alcohol, vinegar or lemon juice, and salt.

The Carbonate Identification lab guides students through an investigation to identify a metal carbonate using gas laws and stoichiometry, along with some balloons and simple measuring tools. All of the materials necessary for this activity are commonly found in the home: balloons, string, plastic tubes, scissors, measuring spoons, a ruler, and samples of crushed chalk (calcium carbonate), and washing soda (sodium carbonate).

Using the Ionic vs. Covalent Compounds lab will allow students to compare two seemingly similar substances: salt and sugar. Students melt a sample of each and analyze their chemical composition. They will be able to draw conclusions regarding the properties of ionic and covalent compounds. Common household items are used in this investigation: salt, sugar, aluminum foil, a candle, and tongs.

The Little Miss Muffet lab shows students how to make homemade glue from milk and compare it to commercial glue. This activity is also emphasizes terminology that students do not usually use in every day conversation, such as coagulate. The necessary materials are commonly found in the home: sauce pan, skim milk, heat source, vinegar, coffee filter, baking soda, water, and measuring cups.

Students investigate the addition of detergent to a mixture of whole milk and food coloring in the Magic Milk lab and then explain their observations. Students also have the opportunity to alter the procedure to determine how variables impact the results. The common materials used in the activity are: small plastic or glass dish, liquid food colorings (four colors), toothpicks, dishwashing detergent, and whole milk.

In addition to the article and these great teaching resources, AACT has also opened the webinar that Amiee presented in December 2014, Take Home Labs. Watch the presentation to learn about implementing take home labs, the increased relevance reinforced by the use of “real” materials, and the opportunity for students to experience science as something that happens everywhere, not just in the science classroom.

We hope these teaching resources will help you plan lessons for your students while they learn remotely. Most of these lessons were made possible by great teachers who shared their own resources. We need your help to keep the collection growing. Do you have a great online or at-home demonstration, activity, or lesson that you would like to share with the community? Please send it along for consideration.