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How to teach Creativity in Chemistry?

How to teach Creativity in Chemistry?

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Hi all,
This is my first time on Edutopia, so sorry if I'm posting this in the wrong spot, but I've been struggling with how to teach students to think creatively in my Chemistry class. It's my first year teaching but I really don't like how my students always just want to get their grade, just want to pass, etc. They don't seem to want to be creative and are often stumped by problems if the wording is just a bit different. I have no idea, however, where to start with that. Any ideas or advice would be greatly appreciated!

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Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

Hi Caylor, welcome to the Edutopia community. Don't worry about where your question is posted. We'll make sure it gets seen.

You've asked a thorny question, which sounds fundamentally to be about student engagement. Why don't you take a look at our resource page for student engagement--there are a number of approaches and resources that you might find helpful:

One of the approaches included on the resource page is project-based learning. On that note, you might find some inspiration from the work of Luann Lee, a chem teacher and PBL advocate. For example, you can read about a project in which her students addressed odor from a local paper mill:

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Soemtimes by highschool, we've trained kids to be very centered on the business/factory aspect of school, and asking them to do something different may not be easy, especially at first go. You have to make it something where they have confidence they can do it, and scaffold the first project in such a way that everyone feels like they are making good progress, until they feel comfortable flying solo.

That said, Chemistry creativity can start by looking at chemistry in the every day- cooking is a great example. Why are baking soda and baking powder different? Why do you cut cold butter into biscuits? (a great source for the Chemistry of Cooking is actually Cook's Illustrated, which will tell you the way they choose to cook potatoes for example, because of the way the starch molecules interact, or that baking powder activates twice- once when it gets wet, a second time hitting heat, giving cakes their lift, while most cookies have a crispier texture and rely on baking soda alone...)

This sort of thing can be used to help kids then go and experiment with recipes and figure out why they work or don't, there are molecular gastronomy kits that let you do all sorts of cool things...

I think this would spur a ton of creativity with kids to try new things while still keeping the principals you are teaching front and center... Let me know what you think.

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