Introduction: Science, Writing, and Society

Intro  |  Unit 1  |  Unit 2  |  Unit 3  |  Unit 4  |  Unit 5  |  Unit 6  |  Unit 7

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Many students find chemistry intimidating.  Although atoms are the building blocks of all matter we observe on a daily basis, the concepts of molecules and reactions can seem abstract.

In this course, students will be exposed to the basics of chemistry in a way that allows them to learn the content at their own pace.  Even without mastering the science, students can learn to appreciate the concepts while also developing their skills in creative writing and historical research.

This course follows the first seven chapters of OpenStax Chemistry: Atoms First 2e.  These chapters cover the core concepts of elements, molecules, and chemical reactions.  Future courses may cover additional chapters involving thermodynamics, material properties, and nuclear chemistry.  Note, however, that the OpenStax materials are intended for college students — rather than teaching the book directly, I use it as a guide for my lesson planning.  Each unit is built around instructional videos, lab experiments, and research writing activities to engage students.

Course Grading

Points System

This course allows opportunities for students to earn course credits in science, English, or social studies — or any combination of the three.  To ensure that students are able to explore the course while also maintaining rigorous standards, this course uses a point system for each unit:

Unit Points Breakdown

10 "Flex" Points Possible

5 Science Points

5 English Points

5 Social Studies Points

Modular Labs

Uncertain attendance creates a major challenge in alternative education.  In a traditional chemistry course, missing a single lab might undermine a student's entire course progress.  For this course, each module includes multiple short labs that emphasize the scientific method and data collection.  Each unit's labs are intended as standalone experiences — students won't need to take the labs in order, and the labs are simple enough that multiple labs can be conducted simultaneously.  This way, a single lab period can be used to support the needs of students at different stages of progress in the course.

Ensuring Engagement and Academic Integrity

Regardless of subject track, this course is designed to be hands-on.  To encourage students to take part in the chemistry experiments, all lab assignments provide flex points that can be applied to science, English, or history.  This should also foster teamwork skills among the students, since lab experiments will be completed in groups.

Ideally, students will see the need to individually understand each topic.  Unfortunately, many students feel pressure to complete their courses as quickly as possible.  To prevent copying or "coasting" through group projects, we won't have group assignments — instead, students will help each other set up individual experiments, but each student will be responsible for independently conducting experiments and gathering data.  Additionally, any assignments that test student knowledge will be paper worksheets completed during in-class activities.  Longer assignments such as research papers will be unique to each student, and so they can be checked like any other writing assignment.

Course Tracks

The chemistry workshops will offer three separate tracks.  Although students will attend common workshops for all three tracks, the projects will be done independently for each track.

Introductory Chemistry (Science with Content Focus)

Reflections on Science and Fiction (English with Writing Focus)

History of Scientific Discovery (Social Studies with Research Focus)

Chemistry Intro  |  Unit 1  |  Unit 2  |  Unit 3  |  Unit 4  |  Unit 5  |  Unit 6  |  Unit 7

Resources for Teachers