September 2017 | Editorial
Lift as You Climb
By Jenelle Ball
As the new school year begins, I am honored and enthusiastic about serving as president of AACT. While AACT has only been in existence since 2014, it has become a strong and vital support system for teachers of chemistry. The resources available on the website, the professional development opportunities, and the networking with other teachers combine to really make AACT a valuable community for its members. When I think about AACT, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes, “Lift as you climb.” 1
As an organization, we are definitely climbing. Every month
our members contribute new ideas for laboratory work, demonstrations,
and lesson development. This school year, there is an amazing line-up of
new webinars that teachers can access. The AP Chemistry Content Writing Team
was hard at work this summer and has bolstered the offerings available
to help AP teachers be successful. Many new multimedia projects,
including videos and simulations, are slated to debut this year. You can
find several videos debuting as part of the
PPG-sponsored Chemistry of Color content writing project, as well as the first simulation of the school year, Measuring Volume.
The four issues that will make up Volume 4 of Chemistry Solutions will be filled with articles from our members that range from the “nuts and bolts” of teaching to thought-provoking reflections on the teaching process. In the current issue, you can find several valuable articles to consider as you start the new school year:
- If you are interested in focusing on literacy in your classroom, David Byrum shares a number of great ideas for integrating more English Language skills into your curriculum.
- Glenda Connelly’s article should help you think about improving student communication, writing, and reading connected to chemical literacy.
- Using Modeling Instruction is often of interest to many teachers — and in this issue, you can read about a VSEPR modeling activity, as well as how modeling instruction changed one teacher’s enthusiasm for the classroom.
- The lead content writer for the Chemistry of Color project reflects on her experience and shares how the 18 classroom resources developed by this team of teachers can be beneficial in your own classroom.
- Last but not least, I always find it interesting to learn how other teachers made their way to the chemistry classroom — and for a truly unique story, make sure you read this issue’s In My Element article.
I applaud the willingness of our members to share what they do in their classrooms and their teaching careers. This exchange lifts us up, both as an organization and as individuals — and I encourage you to take part in the exchange yourself! Of course, sharing resources is great, and what is equally important is that these resources actually get tried out and put into use by other teachers.
The beginning of the school year is a perfect time to pick a resource and add it to your classroom experience. This year, I have chosen to use several AACT resources in an effort to make classroom involvement more engaging and relevant for my students. While I haven’t been unhappy with the “program” that I have put in place, I am always trying to improve the classes that I teach, and want my classroom to be the more modern experience that my students deserve.
Putting ideas into practice
This year, I have made a big change in my sequence of topics. Inspired and impressed by W. Patrick Cunningham’s article in the March 2015 issue of Chemistry Solutions, I am placing the study of gases early in the year. In his article, Patrick shared his reasoning behind teaching the nature of gases early in the course, as well as the laboratory work that he does through the unit (which I am also going to use). My hope is that practice and experience with explaining data and making particulate level diagrams for the gas phase will improve student success in more complex systems, such as when they learn about solutions and reactions.
“Finding Chemistry Connections in Climate Change,” by Jason Olson in the May 2017 issue of Chemistry Solutions, is another article that is broadly impacting my new school year. Jason’s article gives a good framework for how to include climate change in many areas of study. Along with that framework, he has given resources to access for actual data that can be used in class, as well as his own lesson, Calculating Your Carbon Footprint.
In addition to these specific examples of resources that I will use, I have decided to change some of my experiments and try new ones submitted to AACT by other teachers. I have been using two webinars, Incorporating Engineering Practices and A Visual and Intuitive Approach to Stoichiometry, for ideas about how to make my classroom more modern.
After taking a year off from teaching AP chemistry, the AP focused webinars, such as Big K, Little k and Buffers: Merging Equilibrium with Limiting Reactant, have helped to get me thinking again about how to best frame my class. The series of news posts that highlight the AACT classroom resources intended for use in the AP Chemistry classroom will also be extremely valuable to me throughout the year. And of course, I will continue to use the ever-expanding multimedia options that are available at teachchemistry.org. I look forward to having my students Close-Read articles from the new issues of ChemMatters, and I hope that some of you may try this technique in your own classroom.
I’m thrilled that AACT membership now has the added benefit of accessing the Journal of Chemical Education and Chemical & Engineering News. The articles in Chemical and Engineering News have been especially interesting to my AP students. I often use these for a more in-depth discussion of chemistry and to show students the different areas that people are researching today. The Journal of Chemical Education is where I find ideas for new labs and demonstrations, along with thoughtful articles on instruction and assessment. Access to these valuable resources is an exciting benefit for our membership, and will create new connections for teachers and expand the information that can be readily made available to students.
As you go through your school year, I hope that you will choose to use the resources available through the AACT website. I also hope you will join me in giving feedback and comments about how things went by completing the quick commenting form that is now available on every classroom resource. I want to hear about the resources that really worked well for you, and how (or if) you may have made adjustments when you implemented the ideas in your classroom. I also invite you to start a conversation on our Discussion Board to hear from other teachers about how they do things in their classrooms. In fact, your “voice” is the greatest resource we have, and I look forward to having an ongoing conversation this year.
The impact of feedback can also reach out across grade levels. I urge you to make a point to personally connect with a teacher from another grade level this year. Invite that teacher to a webinar, a conference that you are going to attend, or just to your school site for a visit. Consider connecting your classroom to the scientific world outside of your own school. The Science Coaches program is a perfect opportunity to make a valuable connection with a local scientist! Share the resources that AACT has to offer. Lift as you climb.
While I do not know most of the AACT members, I feel supported by each one of you. Your willingness to write, share, talk, and invite others to participate helps all of us as we work to improve the teaching and learning of chemistry. Those very activities also lift up both our students and ourselves — every day.
I am excited about the new year for AACT, and honored to be a member of this amazing group!
AACT President, 2017–2018
- Quote from Mary Church Terrill, published in the Sacramento Bee, Feb. 26, 2017.