5 Creative Ways to Teach Separating Mixtures to Keep Students Engaged

Akanksha Saxena

The realm of liquid mixtures encompasses a fascinating array of substances each with distinct properties and characteristics. To unveil their hidden properties and determine their valuable usages, the techniques of separation emerge as a fundamental skill. From the science of distillation to the intricacies of phase changes, mixture separation deals with various concepts ranging from heterogeneous-vs.-homogeneous mixtures, differences between physical and chemical changes of a substance, interpretation of heating curves, phase diagrams, and much more.

To help educators plan well-organized lectures on the subject, we have compiled some resources here. The underlisted 5 innovative ways can be a game-changer for you and your students.

1. Use Interactive Models and Simulations

Incorporating models and simulations while discussing the idea of mixtures and ways to separate them can be an invaluable strategy for educators heading to transform the learning experience of students. These tools allow students to explore the intricacies of distillation techniques and homogeneous mixtures of liquids. 

Through simulations like the one from Labster, students can visualize the entire distillation process from heating to vaporization, separation, and condensation. This experiential learning will enable them to grasp the nuanced principles underpinning this separation method including the identification of homogenous mixtures of liquids and the factors influencing their separation.

Preview of DI4 4 simulation.

2. Learning with Games and Activities

To provide an enriching lab experience, whether physical or virtual, you must merge the core ideas of mixtures and their separation principles with enjoyable exploration. This can be materialized by the inclusion of gamification approaches that efficiently create a vibrant educational ecosystem where students actively engage and prepare themselves to excel as adept chemists and problem solvers. You can plan a plethora of classroom and virtual activities like:

  • Virtual distillation experiments
  • Classroom activities involving homogeneous mixtures of liquids with different boiling points
  • Gamified elements to observe phase changes

In the Labster’s Separating Mixtures Virtual Lab, students can engage in a little activity where they help Jo in the production of bioethanol to suffice his fuel needs. As students virtually run a distillation experiment to produce high-quality pure ethanol, their knowledge of phase changes, heating curves, and peculiarities of boiling points of different liquids like ethanol and water at atmospheric pressure will be brushed.

Preview of DI4 2 simulation.
Discover Labster's Separating Mixtures virtual lab today!

3. Infusing Technology into Study Plans

Educators can leverage cutting-edge technological interventions to revolutionize the way they teach about different separation techniques for mixtures. While real-time ethanol distillation can be a little risky for new learners, virtual interactive platforms set the stage for risk-free handling where students have the scope of trials and errors as they distill ethanol. Even clarifying the idea of homogenous versus heterogeneous mixtures becomes an easy job as interactive modules can serve as guiding manuals for step-by-step separation techniques of a mixture of liquids.

Intuitive interfaces within technology-enhanced education offer a powerful tool for comprehending complex concepts like heating curves and phase diagrams as they permit learners to actively explore and discern essential information like boiling points with ease. When grappling with phase diagrams, students can interactively navigate through various regions representing different phases and conditions. By manipulating variables like temperature and pressure, they can gain insights into how changes impact the material’s state and properties.

4. Inspiring Learners by Connecting to Career Prospects

Opening doors to dynamic career options that follow once a person masters the science of separation techniques could instill a sense of passionate learning among students. You can stress on-the-job roles in the fields of scientific research, engineering, environmental sustainability, etc as you teach about different aspects of mixtures.

Another strategy involves discussions and webinars by experts who have contributed immensely to the world of separation techniques and important processes like distillation. You can invite guest speakers from major bioethanol production firms or sustainable fuel start-ups to illuminate students about the burgeoning careers in renewable energy and environmental stewardship.

5. Connecting the Topic to Real-World Applications

By discussing how a profound grasp of separation techniques and distillation processes can serve as a superpower to bring far-reaching implications into society, you can convince students to actively engage in classroom teaching.  

We all know that students are drawn to a world where theory converges with practical significance, that’s why we must teach these techniques by quoting examples from real-world scenarios like:

  • Importance of distillation in bioethanol production, beverage production, or pharmaceutical refinement
  • Importance of sustainable solutions in the energy landscape
  • Importance of understanding physical and chemical properties to innovate in the fields of materials engineering and pharmaceuticals

Final thoughts

In an era marked by technological advancements, educators are encouraged to teach topics like this with innovative tools and modern methodologies to offer students a dynamic and immersive learning experience that effectively transcends theoretical boundaries to tangible applications. Labster supports educators in this endeavor by simplifying the ideas in its simulative environment using visuals and gamified elements.

Try our free 30-day All Access Educator's Pass today and teach with the Separating Mixtures simulation alongside 300+ other virtual labs!


  1. Errico, M., & Rong, B. G. (2012). Synthesis of new separation processes for bioethanol production by extractive distillation. Separation and purification technology, 96, 58-67.
  2. Chang, Y. A., Chen, S., Zhang, F., Yan, X., Xie, F., Schmid-Fetzer, R., & Oates, W. A. (2004). Phase diagram calculation: past, present, and future. Progress in Materials Science, 49(3-4), 313-345.
  3. Lei, Z., Li, C., & Chen, B. (2003). Extractive distillation: a review. Separation & Purification Reviews, 32(2), 121-213.

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