5 Exciting Ways to Introduce Students to Organic Chemistry

Anjaney Kothari

Organic chemistry is a vast area of study that can take years to master. Merely introducing the beginners to this subject requires educators to teach diverse topics like:

·   Valence electrons and hybridization of orbitals,

·   Formation of covalent bonds and the role of bond angles,

·   Functional groups and their significance,

·   Using chemical tests to identify basic functional groups in organic compounds, and

·   Nomenclature of simple hydrocarbons.

Thus, even the basics of organic chemistry can be challenging to teach and learn. Here, we list five ways to introduce your students to organic chemistry in a stimulating manner.

1. Engage Students with Interactive Models

Interactive models make chemical structures easier to grasp and laboratory techniques simpler to implement. This makes interactive models particularly relevant for teaching the basics of organic chemistry. Interactive methods also allow students to readily test their knowledge.

Take Labster’s organic chemistry introduction virtual lab, for example. In our interactive simulation, students get to repeatedly practice chemical tests for identifying functional groups in a hazard-free environment. They can also learn theoretical concepts at their own convenience by accessing textual information in the simulation. At the same time, the students get multiple opportunities to test their knowledge through quizzes and puzzles.

Organic chemistry virtual lab showing 3D structure.

2. Make the Topic Fun with Games and Activities

Extensive and complicated topics like organic chemistry need some games and activities to reinvigorate the classroom. But these games and activities can become short, fun-filled learning sessions in themselves.

For example, to teach organic chemistry to your students, bring a 3D chemical modeling kit to the class. Allow your students to create ball-and-stick models of organic compounds. Once they have made their models, ask them to name them following organic chemistry nomenclature rules. You can also use these models to explain the different functional groups in organic chemistry. Moreover, you can creatively test your students’ organic chemistry knowledge through fun puzzles, riddles, or scavenger hunts.

3. Accelerate Learning by Incorporating Technology

Technology can transform any subject matter into engaging audiovisual content that makes complex concepts easier to grasp. Thus, by using technological advancements like simulation, animation and virtual reality, organic chemistry can become a more exciting subject.

For example, Labster’s organic chemistry introduction virtual lab covers all the basics of organic chemistry in just one 39-minute-long simulation. The students build their own 3D molecular models on a holotable while learning about covalent bonds and bond angles. They also conduct several chemical tests in a virtual fume hood to identify the functional groups in a medicinal compound. Ultimately, the students apply their knowledge and practice to perform tests that help determine whether the medication that a (virtual) friend has been taking has the right functional groups.

Organic chemistry virtual lab with saturated and unsaturated alkanes,
Discover Labster's organic chemistry introduction virtual lab today!

4. Inspire Students Through Career Exploration

Centuries of developments in organic chemistry have given birth to innumerable industries and professions around the world. Walking through some of these careers with your students could highlight the paramount significance of organic chemistry in today’s world.

For example, talk to your students about how medicinal chemists use organic chemistry to design and synthesize pharmaceuticals. Tell them how biochemical engineers and biotechnologists use organic chemistry to produce biofuels, enzymes, and biopolymers. Discuss how agricultural and food scientists use organic chemistry to develop pesticides, fertilizers and flavoring agents.

5. Connect Topic to Real-World Applications

Venturing into the complicated terrain of organic chemistry is a tough task that requires motivation and intellectual support. Discussing the real-world applications of organic chemistry can be a powerful source of motivation for students to learn the subject.

For example, talk to your students about how organic chemistry helps in designing and developing drugs for disease treatment. Tell them about the role of organic chemistry in extracting, refining, and synthesizing petrochemical products. Discuss the importance of this subject in formulating and producing cosmetics and personal care products.

Final thoughts

All STEM fields require a basic understanding of organic chemistry, but this subject is vast and complex. Conventional teaching methods may not be able to hold students’ attention for long. But the stimulating teaching methods we have discussed here will make it exciting for students to learn organic chemistry.

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