My fifth grade students were ready to dig deeper in their study of rocks and minerals. So, we started following the “traditional” route of doing simple tests to identify the minerals present in the rocks they found in the playground. However, as we were doing these tests, I realized that I could take an alternative route and make more cross-disciplinary connections by thinking at the macro level. I went back to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and thought that I could focus our learning within the Scientific Core Idea 5-PS1-4: When two or more different substances are mixed, a new substance with different properties may be formed.
Then, I decided to talk about atoms, elements, and combining those to form molecules. Next thing, we were having rich discussions about the chemistry of rocks. We then used two well known chemistry experiments: chemistry in a bag and yeast respiration to investigate chemical reactions. I framed those experiments in the context of the following testable questions: (1) What are the macroscopic indicators of a chemical reaction with non-living materials? and, (2) What are the macroscopic indicators of a chemical reaction with living organisms? Although I am clear in the specific nuances of each category and possible pitfalls of such broad generalization, I wanted my students to be able to think and compare at a larger scale. Finally, we performed some experiments on our rock samples and decided whether the rock underwent a chemical change based on our macroscopic indicators.
What chemistry lessons are your currently doing with students? Leave a message and let us know.