Many students think chemistry is too hard or only for high-achieving students. How do you break down their walls and open students up to learning chemistry? I’m sure you’ve tried many ways in your time teaching, and hopefully, some of these ideas we’ve identified will spark some new methods.
Here are the eight methods we’ve identified to teach chemistry in a fun way:
Take a virtual field trip
Align activity with a career
Mix in interesting facts
Try virtual labs
Have fun labs
Make the lab related to real-world situations
1.) Take a virtual field trip
Students cannot do some labs in the classroom due to being too expensive or inaccessible. Taking a virtual field trip enables learners to interact with topics they might only get to read about in a textbook.
Labster has a chemistry simulation where students are at an extraterrestrial lab facility, struggling to get enough propulsion for their transporter. They need to figure out the kinetics and optimize the chemical reaction of the fuel they’re using, so they can continue their experiments.
2.) Utilize video
Videos can stimulate curiosity and excitement in learners. It’s a different way to learn. They don’t need to be used as a standalone teaching tool or for the whole period of the class, but you can combine them with other methods to effectively get complex scientific concepts across to students.
Did you know? Labster comes with 3D animation videos in addition to hundreds of simulations. These short 1-3 minute videos help students visualize science and give teachers a targeted tool for explaining a specific topic that aligns with their lesson.
3.) Align activity with a career
Getting students to care can often mean helping them see connections with their future careers. If they know the lab is relevant to what they’re aiming for in the future, they’re more likely to come to class engaged and excited.
If students are interested in a career in pharmacology, a chemistry simulation where students begin their learning experience in a modern pharmacy by helping Marie the pharmacist may be compelling to them. They’d help to synthesize extra aspirin in the laboratory to fight the outbreak of headaches amongst students during the exam period.
4.) Mix in interesting facts
Chemistry is in the world around us. According to MEL Science, interspersing facts that relate to the scientific topics being taught can make lessons more engaging. It’s helpful to include exciting facts like why onions make you cry. Relatable points can make chemistry digestible, which means happier and more engaged students.
5.) Try virtual labs
Chemistry has many concepts that one cannot easily observe. Virtual labs can bring these concepts to life! Teachers can use simulations to prep students for better and safer in-person labs, or they can use them as a post-homework tool to solidify learning. Labster virtual labs are a fun way to learn, as our chemistry labs use gamification to excite students. For example, students can learn about distillation by rescuing a town from a fuel crisis in our simulation: “Matter and Phase Changes: Distil ethanol.”
6.) Use polling
There are so many ways that polling can engage students! Polling not only allows you to do formative assessments along the way but also gets students involved in the lesson. You can also make it fun by running healthy competitions through quizzes and games. There are many free options like Poll Everywhere, Slido, and Google Forms.
7.) Have fun labs
You can make a scientific version of a tie-dye t-shirt with chromatography in the lab, or you could do a virtual lab that’s unique and ordinarily unattainable. For example, experiment with electrolytic cells in a lab on Mars! Assemble different electrolytic cells so you can make hydrogen fuel for your Mars rover.
8.) Make the lab related to real-world situations
Chemistry can be abstract, so it’s helpful to ground it in real-world problems and solutions. Students might not be aware of how relevant what they’re learning is to topics like climate change. Realizing that what they’re learning relates to problems out in the world gives them the extra boost to care and know that they too can have an impact someday.
We have a virtual lab “Environmental Impact of Coal Power Plants” where project manager Marie shares her quest to uncover the environmental impacts of coal power plants and fish farming. Students get to explore the issues with their current fuel source and help Marie develop a greener solution to save the environment.
Chemistry is both logical and abstract. It can be challenging to grasp! Help students out by varying your teaching methods to engage them in fun ways.
Questions for consideration:
How do you engage students in chemistry in a fun way?
What are your students’ favorite chemistry virtual labs? Why?
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