Inquiry Chemistry

 

 

Emerging Themes:

 

 

I think of inquiry being grounded in the pursuit of some deep understanding.  What is the deeper understanding that we were pursuing through this lab?                                   ….Jill

can “rocks” hold water? What makes one volcano more explosive than another?          ….Kathy

Applying the practice to genuine information would lead to a more meaningful lesson.…Geneva

 

  • At what level of detail do we start an inquiry? 
  • How large of context do we supply to the students?

 

 

 

Up until this point, I think that I was getting stuck on looking to integrate level four into all areas of the curriculum, all the time.                                                                                                          …Moira

Given these givens/constraints, I don't think we have to label everything that comes with a question as inquiry.                                                                                                                                                                               …Deb

 

  • Which in turn relates (I think) to the scope of inquiry;
    • is it confirmation, structured, guided or open?  

 

 

 

I resist the idea that Inquiry is a boxed skill... that you either have it or not.              …Joyce

 

  • This in turn relates to our evolving definition of inquiry and the realization that inquiry should not be placed in a “Box” 

 

  • Perhaps one important lesson is that inquiry is not this, that or the other, but an evolving process that includes the teacher and the students? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please post thoughts and reflections on Paul Burgmayer's Copper Sulfate and water exercise.

Comments

Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Inquiry discussion this Morning

A question of inquiry is still the overwheling paradox.  Should I, how can I ?  Inquiry is as easy as learning to walk; we do it all the time and we don't even think about it.  Allow the process to grow and enjoy the ride try it because you will like it!  Allow the natural flow.

 

Stephen Cooney's picture

time

Paul said that by his effort to teach this lab using "Inquiry Instruction" makes it take 3 times as long as it normally would.  If he is a "Master Teacher", what hope do us mere mortals have?

Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Time

Stephen, I think you are a master teacher in your own right.  Don't give up on the process!

Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Paul's Chemistry Inquiry

Paul's lesson using inquiiry Cupric Sulfate was excellent.  I enjoyed the pre-lab discussion and the guided inquiry lesson using limited resources.  This was an excellent idea that I will incorporate into my physical science lesson.  I think I can make this lesson into a multiple intelligence lesson by getting my students to develop a poem or rap about their procedure and the analysis of their product at the end.

Stephen Cooney's picture

Paul’s Chem lesson

 

The beginning inquiry about ‘water in things that seem dry’ was good and open-ended.  It would allow kids to pose answers and questions and therefore, feel a part of the lesson.  Showing us the blue crystals and then leaving us with the question, “What is the percent water in copper sulfate” was clear and unambiguous.  When I looked up the percentage on the web, I found the material to be named with ‘penta-hydrate’ as a suffix.  For those who thought that there was no water in the compound, it would have been clear from the full name that there was!!  So, a little deception is a good thing!!  I am relatively comfortable in both a lab setting and with the math involved, so my in initial  ‘confusion’ level was minimal. 

 

The lab was set up well.  There was a lot of space between stations and the area for the lab materials was clear and open.  Paul was an excellent and willing resource for advice and general questions.

 

My group’s results, however, have left me very confused, literally and metaphorically.  Having looked up the appropriate answer, I am now considering the myriad of reasons for our error.  I am confident our methodology was sound, so I am leaning on ‘random error’ as the cause for our answer.

 

The wide range of values the group generated would be excellent fodder for inquiry discussion post lab.  Having the students rewrite their procedure for another group to use is an excellent idea.  The subtitle of my favorite book in grad school was, “To Teach Is To Learn Again”.  I liked Joyce’s idea of a little spirited competition, quickest, simplest, most accurate…

Deborah Hazen's picture

Copper Sulfate Pentahydrate

I thought that the lab worked as a guided discovery into how one would "drive off" the water in copper sulfate pentahydrate. Prior to the lab I heard three different questions. First, was there water in the "copper sulfate." Second, how could you prove that there was water in the "copper sulfate." And third, how much water was in the "copper sulfate." When we got to the lab we could choose from a heat source, copper sulfate pentahydrate, test tubes, ceramic cups, gloves and test tube clamps, and a scale. We had already been led through three calculations to find percent change in word problems that included a reduction in grams. We were told that we would need to use a similar calculation in the lab. The set up was excellent and there really wasn't a great deal of variety in approaches to "proving" that there was water and determining how much water we drove off through heating the substance. Again, I thought that the experiment was masterfully prepped, all participants were comfortable with the experiment and everyone was able to successfully drive off some water. It was certainly a good opportunity to talk about variation in answers and what variables are, as well as an opportunity to talk about why procedure can be vital.

My reaction to the experience posed a number of questions for me. Chief among them is whether or not I label an activity as inquiry if the question and outcome are so tightly controlled and forgone conclusions and if the procedure is so tightly controlled as to not allow (for safety or expediency) any variation in approach. (I'm thinking about the girls in the video who tried adding water and were told that they needed to walk around the room and see what others were doing--we talked about this in the morning session--and I do hear Paul's concerns about efficiency, not letting kids go too far off course and "learn it wrong," and safety concerns in a chem lab if too much is left to student choice.) Given these givens/constraints, I don't think we have to label everything that comes with a question as inquiry. I am also wondering if there are ways around the three concerns in a typical high school classroom--for instance, submit your proposed lab procedure to me before beginning so I can head off any potential explosions or toxic plumes?

The lab took me back a few years, and I felt led---it was copper sulfate pentahydrate, we were to weight it, drive off water using heat and calculate (using %) the change in weight. My learning style always did much better with labs like this when the teacher just told me up front that this was the plan.

So, on the train ride home, I started to wonder how I might adapt this experiment for use with my students. I was thinking that I might do something like this with 5/6 graders:

Remember last week when we talked about how small a water molecule is? It was pretty cool right? Does anyone remember the chemical shorthand for water? H2O. Right. so, I have a new chemical name for you---CuSO4·5 H2O  

Get out your whiteboards and colored markers. If I had a container full of this stuff, what do you think something with a name like this might look like?

Now, use descriptive words to tell me how you would experience it with your senses. What do you think it smells like? tastes like? looks like (color, texture...)? sounds like? feels like?......Just make a list on your whiteboard. Prop them up and walk around the room. As you take a look at your classmate's ideas, notice if we have a lot of similar ideas or different ideas.

(I am guessing that at the 5/6 level, we'll get some descriptors that say it is a wet something--after all there are 5 water molecules for every "something new molecule.")

After talking about what we notice about our ideas I'll ask, Okay--are you ready to see what this stuff looks like?

Then I show it to them--either on the screen or in a petri dish.

We'll talk about their assumptions when they drew their pics (we draw representations to imagine what things look like all the time--so this isn't a threatening enterprise for them--they think of it more as a game and are more that okay when they are surprised by the unveiling), we'll get to talking about how some things that include water molecules are not wet, we'll share other examples, we'll swing back around to how small that water molecule is. Which for us is really the point--because at grade 5/6---I've got to shift their thinking from water in a glass to water molecule--it is an expansion of the use of the word WATER.

Then I will ask them if they want to do a fairly common experiment that science teachers use to "prove" that there are water molecules in the crystals. We'll drive off the water the same way we did in Paul's lab today and we'll talk about what they saw.

All of this has been guided discovery. Next step, an attempt at setting up an inquiry.

If I am really lucky--and thank the stars, 99% of the time I am if I give kids enough down time to talk to each other about what just happened-----one of my students is going to ask if they can prove that there is water in something else---and this will launch the great water molecule hunt/inquiry. The kids will leave trying to think of something that they can bring in to test for the presence of water molecules. They'll need to develop a totally different methodology---I don't want them to repeat the class experiment--I want them to surprise each other and me with their creativity. And afterall, if they want to prove that their best friend is made up in part by water molecules, they can't just go heating them over the hot plate in the room. They can work alone or in pairs. As an extra challenge they can bring a second thing in to school that goes into the stump box--something that they do not believe contains any water molecules. Anyone in the classroom can refute an objects inclusion in the stump box as long as they can back up their argument.

The last step gets closer to inquiry for me, because it is motivated by student question, design, and analysis of observations. It also has the potential to have some surprising outcomes. I have no idea how many different ways my students will come up with to test for the presence of water molecules. Throughout the whole experience, they will be exercising agency, talking and sharing with each other, confirming their sense that water molecules are "this small" and that their presence does not always mean wet. They'll also be working through how to ask questions, set up a science inquiry, interpret observations, apply skills, use communication to see how others approach a similar question and think about how they can listen to others to fine tune their own thinking. I could have students use the inquiry reflection questions in the model Brie posted to think about their work in this last step.

I keep coming back to our discussion of how inquiry requires space. I don't think that everything we do has to be or be labeled inquiry. Especially when you think about all of the different learning styles in a room--we need to mix it up---direct instruction, some guided discovery, inquiry....we've got a lot of tools/approaches to offer kids. I do think that inquiry is awfully important--we've got to find time for it, kids need to learn to ask questions and construct meaning for themselves----because life doesn't come with a text book and it sure isn't anything like any paper and pencil test I've ever taken!

Syreeta Bennett's picture

My thoughts on the Water chemistry lab

First I want to thank Paul for the math review in the beginning. I enjoyed the lesson.  Paul said this lesson was Guided inquiry and I agree with him. As the teacher his role was limited. He gave background material, he posed a question and provided the materials. He then set back and let us explore. As students, my group   came up with the procedure, we collaborated and came to a census of what was happening. We then drew a conclusion based on our observations. We as students were allowed to further explore and come up with a new set of observations.  Paul as teacher was there to answer questions if needed. Even when we came bak as a group, the conversation was student led. I'm always thinking how can I adapt this lesson to a younger level and I'm asking for any insight.

Moira Messick's picture

Levels of Inquiry

Today's lesson was incredibly valuable for me.  I really related to Paul's multi-level approach to inquiry.  Up until this point, I think that I was getting stuck on looking to intergrate level four into all areas of the curriculum, all the time.  The four-level model makes sense chronologically as well.  It might be beneficial to begin the school year with "What do you want to learn about then teach Ms. B's class about gardening this year?"  Students may not feel completely comfortable with the open-endedness of this task at first.  To help facilitate, I would initially take them through the different levels of 1. confirming understanding, 2. structured inquiry, and 3. guided inquiry.  Starting with these activities will help them work up to the level four open inquiry.

On another note, I was appreciative of the foundation set by Paul in order to set up and complete the actual lab.  It was nice to experience success with the lab.  It built confidence in an area where I was initially uncomfortable.

Geneva Tolliferreo's picture

7/28 AM Lab Observations

KNOW IF STUDENTS ARE ALLERGIC TO ANYTHING or if they are ASTHMATIC!                This should be the 1st order of business.

Moving on...this was a great lab for basic and general inquiry, giving students the opportunity to go through the process and experience getting results.

Had more 'givens' been in place, results would have been more specific.  Had everyone started with the same information (quantity, weight, temperature, containers, heat source, etc.); had all the variables been the same, and then the results varied, then I believe we would have had a more inquiry based discussion as to how and why that happened.

The hands-on, practice if you will, is an excellent way to engage students allowing them to have fun and explore the process.  Applying the practice to genuine information would lead to a more meaningful lesson.

 

 

Verolga Nix-Allen's picture

Copper Sulfate and water exercise

I enjoy the hands on labs and discussion. Judith started us off by gathering the necessary equipment. Joyce came over and asked us preparatory questions, ie What is sulfate likened to, the color, odor,etc?  These statements acted as a semi introduction to what Paul wanted us to find out.   By understanding some of the questions I felt a part of the class. The water and plant experiments became related, by Inquiry, as how I would help my choir to grow not only musically but spiritually as well.  Thanks.

Dalia Gorham's picture

I thought the lesson was

I thought the lesson was wonderful! It was a lot of fun and allowed for inquiry as we determined what method we wanted to use to answer the question.  As we explored and experimented more we found that after we burned the copper sulfate for the 2nd and 3rd time it began to crack and move inside the test tube almost as a glacier.  Also when we added water to the powdery substance it became, it turned blue once again.

I may be able to use this lesson in my classroom as a demonstration lesson & guided whole-group inquiry.

joycetheriot's picture

Inquiry Journeys of Teachers

All who take this institute may expect to learn about Inquiry or how to implement Inquiry. I resist the idea that Inquiry is a boxed skill... that you either have it or not.

We need to follow our own "reflective path" as Paul said, and generate a set of questioning, planning and implementation strategies that work for us and most importantly, let our mastery of inquiry just evolve.

Verolga Nix-Allen's picture

Copper Sulfate and water exercise

I enjoy the hands on labs and discussion. Judith started us off by gathering the necessary equipment. Joyce came over and asked us preparatory questions, ie What is sulfate likened to, the color, odor,etc?  These statements acted as a semi introduction to what Paul wanted us to find out.   By understanding some of the questions I felt a part of the class. The water and plant experiments became related, by Inquiry, as how I would help my choir to grow not only musically but spiritually as well.  Thanks.

Edward Bujak's picture

Water lab

I thought the intro to the lab was a subtle way to guide the lab that followed.  It allowed me to focus on certain aspects that were necessary to conduct useful activities in the lab.  The lab was sufficiently open to allow students to strategize and answer research questions through data analysis.

Kathy Swahn's picture

other ways for water chem

I liked the idea of this simple straight forward lab. I thought it was well presented allowing students to choose materials and use their own ideas on how to tackle the project at hand. I would like to use this lab as an Earth Science activity – can “rocks” hold water? What makes one volcano more explosive than another? I still need to work out the details.

 

Diedre Bennett's picture

I enjoyed today's lesson

I enjoyed today's lesson with the copper sulfate.  I am a person who learns from putting things into practice. The lesson made me think about how much water copper sulfate contains, but I wanted a "right answer".  I know that sounds crazy, but don't we all sometimes want to know the "right answer".  Learning the steps to get the answer is great, but what if the steps I chose are wrong then what?   

 

Deidre

Jill Bean's picture

Copper sulfate

I would have liked for Paul's lesson to have been rooted in some context.  What is the important context for finding out that cooper sulfate has water in it?  I think of inquiry being grounded in the pursuit of some deep understanding.  What is the deeper understanding that we were pursuing through this lab?  Perhaps Paul could enrich his lab by tying it in to other things and ideas the class had already pursued, or by linking bit back to a larger question they were investigating.  

Diane Balanovich's picture

Water Lab

The lab today allowed us to creatively think of ways to find out the percentage of water that was in the Copper Sulfate.  I enjoy working in the lab setting because it has been such a long time since I have had that opportunity. You definatley learn more from lab because I know that other groups, sparked new ideas for us to try out. I found it interesting that the color returned to the copper sulfate when the H20 was returned to it.  The 4 levels of inquiry was very helpful. I think it serves as a great reference.

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