Reflection: Real World Applications In the Heat of the Summer: Ink Chromatography Test - Section 2: Do Now/Activator


A few years ago I attended a summer PD at Smith College. The purpose of the workshop was to give us teachers tools to get students more interested engineering and science. One of those tools was to ground the work of the student in a story. This is the first time I have tried that approach to this extent. I actually sat down and wrote a mini-mystery that I carefully weaved chemical and physical properties into.  

I have been very impressed with the outcome. I observed students having fun and engaging in the material, and the student writing that has come out of this project has been of a higher quality. I also noticed that there was equal buy-in amongst both genders.

In the article To Attract More Girls to STEM, Bring More Storytelling to Science, the author notes that the Next Generation Science Standards “asks teachers to show students how insights from many disciplines fit together into a coherent picture of the world.” In the past, I would teach chemical and physical properties, but with very little grounding in why they matter. By writing a story and relating them to the story, I believe that I was able to increase the enjoyment, and thus the learning, for many students.

Of course, there are plenty of nonfiction stories that are much more mesmerizing. For example, current thinking about how elements are formed. In the words of Carl Sagan, we are all stardust. Going forward, I am recommitting to the idea that stories are vitally important in science education. They enrich, they stimulate different parts of the brain, and the research shows that they increase learning and interest in STEM fields.

  The Importance of Stories
  Real World Applications: The Importance of Stories
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In the Heat of the Summer: Ink Chromatography Test

Unit 2: Forensics
Lesson 4 of 6

Objective: Students will be able to conduct a paper chromatography test and analyze its results.

Big Idea: Mixtures such as ink can be dissolved in a solvent and separated out using paper chromatography. The tool can be used to compare different substances with the goal of noticing similarities and differences between the substances.

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  60 minutes
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