Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chemistry Matters

After a few brief attempts at chemistry studies, we finally got more than our toes wet. Actually, we dove right down to the bottom and boy are we having fun. More accurately, I'm having a blast. Grace and Lee love the labs, but despise writing lab reports. And yes, I am a wicked mother who actually requires fully written lab reports with purpose, materials, procedure, data and discussion. And not only do I check the chemistry, but the spelling and sentence structure, as well.

The main reason we continue with this chemistry unit is because the materials I'm using are so great. I've tried activities from Creative Sciencing, but some of them didn't work so well - too open ended with no real results. I've also tried activities from 101 Cool Science Experiments for Kids. I found that one to contain more fluff than real science. I pulled out some of my old Home Education magazines, knowing that Rebecca Rupp would have some good reviews on science stuff. She had a complete review dedicated to chemistry materials for kids ages 5-100. I immediately ordered three books, lab glassware and a few basic chemicals. I stocked up on all the typical kitchen chemistry items as well: ammonia, rubbing alcohol, Sharpie markers, Epsom salts, vinegar, red cabbage, baking soda, washing soda, etc.

This has been our main text. The back cover recommends it for age 11 and up. I would say that's pretty accurate. My 10 and 11 year old have used it just fine, but I really do think the "and up" crowd would find it workable, yet not boring or babyish. It is true chemistry. So far we've collected carbon dioxide gas, prepared an iron sulfate solution, distilled water, and grew a variety of crystals. We've discussed and used vocabulary such as displacement of water, mass, reagents, filtrate, residue, homogenous, solvent, solute and so many more.

Super Science Concoctions by Jill Frankel Hauser

This book is geared for the 6-12 year old group. We've only worked through chapter 1, Strange but True Brews. It's definitely enjoyable for the younger crowd. Typically Lou and Ray hang around when we use this book. We tried our hand at making cinnamon perfume, studied the concept of molecular motion by making food coloring water colors. Both were fun, but didn't require heat or a lot of apparatus. According to Lee if we didn't use a beaker or flask, we didn't do chemistry. Grace prefers to use heat and real chemicals, but the container doesn't much matter to her.

Recommended for age 8 and up, we haven't even touched this one yet. As the title suggests it really focuses on an understanding of the periodic table. Looks good, though.

I have three main goals for our chemistry studies.

1. To find value in the study of chemistry.

2. To recognize and use confidently chemistry vocabulary.

3. To know the names and understand the use of our supply of labware.

Lastly, don't you just love the title of this post. I thought it very clever, being that chemistry is the study of matter.