Top 7 Favorite Projects and Easy Labs for Teaching Chemistry Concepts by Julie Gilbert

I’ve been teaching high school chemistry for the past 7+ years. I don’t get to run every project each year because different schools have slightly different curriculums and the timing isn’t always right to allow for doing a project in every unit. Still, they’re designed to be done with household supplies, so they may be fun/useful to homeschool groups. If anybody’s interested in the full sheets, please email devyaschildren at gmail dot com and I can get you a PDF for the full project. Each has a grading rubric, though depending on which year it was run the point values may differ. In my experience, the value’s in creating and building along with the learning.

Sweet Treats – Balancing Chemical Equations 
Starbursts, gummy worms, and M&M’s seem to be favorites here. The most common mistake I’ve seen students make is to demonstrate the general form of a double replacement
reaction wrong. AB + CD --> AD + CB … it’s strange for them to put the C before the B but it has to be this way because

the C represents a positive ion (cation) and the B represents a negative ion (anion).

Objective: To use something sweet to demonstrate four types of chemical reactions: synthesis, decomposition, single replacement, and double replacement.

Description and Details: You are to demonstrate your knowledge of the four types of reactions above by creatively illustrating them. You will need to show that you know the general format of type of reaction as well as a specific chemical reaction (an example; include phases), and your fun analogy. You may make a poster with items of candy (or other edible teeth-rotting goodness) as symbols (Note: You cannot just draw them in.) or set up several demonstrations with props. You will need to list the supplies you need as well as a short written/ typed summary of how each analogy ties into the equation it represents.

Got Game? A Study in Stoichiometry
Creating the game board can suck up a lot of time, but try to concentrate on the creation of the questions. You want a variety of game questions that can be answered quickly yet still deal with stoichiometry or similar concepts. It’s meant to function as a review game as well as a review exercise.

Objective: To design and create a board or card-based game to aid in comprehension, speed, and efficiency solving Stoichiometry problems.

Details: You and your assigned partner(s) will create a board or card game to practice Stoichiometry.
- Everyone must create 4, clearly labeled Stoichiometry questions (1 mole-mole; 1 mole-mass; 1 mass-mole; 1 mass-mass); additional questions or problems are recommended to enhance your game; Everybody’s questions will be pooled for availability on all games.

- You will also need a question that covers how to find the Limiting Reagent and how to calculate percent yield (6 questions total)
- You must type all questions and explanations but you may use a pencil for mathematical calculations
- Each ques should have a source (ie. wksheet and ques #; book pg #; internet url)
- Each group must have a game rules sheet. Even if you’re using an existing board game, you need to work in how the stoichiometry problems will be integrated.

Approximate Time Allotments: 1 day for problem creation/proofing, 1 day for board creation/ brainstorming about game rules, 1 day to play review games

Lewis Structure Noodles
This is a relatively new project as I’ve only been doing it a year or two, but I like it. Over time I’ve become more aware of how bulky projects can be. That makes them difficult to haul around. Mini-posters seems to be the way to go. These are relatively simple models. The act of planning and placing can help reinforce the concept of sharing multiple bonds.

Objective: To demonstrate the rules concerning Lewis Structures by creating models, explaining the rules, and exploring multiple bonds.

Description: Demonstrate your knowledge of chemical bonding by illustrating 1 ionic bond formation, 1 Lewis structure of a covalent molecule that contains single bonds only, and 1 Lewis structure of a covalent molecule that contains at least one multiple bond. You should make a mini-poster with noodles as symbols. Use copious amounts of glue. I don’t want noodles littering the floor. Everything should fit on 1 – 2 “normal” (8 ½ x 11) pages.

Details: Only electrons must be noodles, the letters for the element symbol may be drawn. For the ionic structure, you should show the movement of electron(s) by drawing appropriate arrow(s). Color-code the noodles if you wish.

Explanation should address the following questions:
1. What does each noodle represent?
2. How many valence electrons must be accounted for?
3. How many shared pairs of electrons are there? Explain which noodles you used and why.
4. What is the octet rule? (once) Is the octet rule obeyed?
5. What type of bond(s) is/are formed? Why? (ionic, polar covalent, non-polar covalent)


Noble Gas Bingo Cards 
This one’s a lot of fun. I’ve considered scaling back to one bingo card, but I wanted two because of the ability to include all the noble gas configurations 1-38 somewhere. Some chem concepts like writing noble gas configurations simply takes a fair amount of practice. This is a fun way of reviewing the concept. And then you can play bingo. I’ve created a list of questions that corresponds to the honors and cp versions of this project. I believe the honors simply adds more possible configurations to the mix.

Objective: To create 2 different bingo cards using the noble gas notations for elements 1-38.

Description: For each of your three bingo cards you will choose 25 elements and fill each box on the bingo card with the NOBLE GAS NOTATION for the 25 elements you chose.

Details: Neatness counts! Anyone should be able to play Electron Bingo with your cards. You will need to include a sheet with the noble gas notations for the first 38 elements. This will be graded or gone over in class to make sure everyone is using the correct notations; therefore, everyone should get the accuracy points without a problem.

Candy Electron Configuration
The electron configuration rules can be difficult to walk through, but this is a nice exercise for either introduction or reinforcement. I guess it could be review or assessment as well, depending on how much the teacher wants to help the students along. Prep of the cups ahead of time can be a little tedious, depending on how many groups you need to accommodate.

Objective: To distinguish between levels, sublevels, and orbitals.
To apply Aufbau’s Rule, Pauli’s Exclusion Principle, and Hund’s Rule to e- configs.

- 1 set of carefully made Dixie cup e- configuration orbitals 
- 38 Good N’ Plenty’s (19 white, 19 pink – signify e- with different spin)

Directions: You will work with a partner. Please follow all instructions in each section. If there is a tiny line, you should write the symbol for the correct element on that line.
Part 1: Aufbau in Action – Warm Up
Part 2: Pursuing Pauli Perfection
Part 3: Haunted by Hund
Part 4: Aufbau, Pauli, and Hund Strikes Again – The True Test

Cereal Percent Composition
A cereal that has multiple colors like fruit loops works well for this. It should be noted that the last question on the sheet is important because it ties in the idea that this is an analogy. Here we use numbers to represent composition but with chemicals it’s about the mass. There are several good percent composition questions using chemicals to reinforce that idea.

Objective: In this activity, you will use cereal to investigate the concept of percent composition. By the end, you should be able to define percent composition and apply this concept to chemical

- 1 bag of cereal per group of 2, 1 paper towel (optional)

1. Separate the cereal by type (discard any broken pieces) 
2. Categorize the cereal pieces by type—could be color (Note: you may have more boxes than necessary) and assign a description under piece name. Count the # of each type of piece and record this in the second column below:

Nuts and Bolts Chemistry
I actually haven’t used this one in a while, but it’s about writing chemical formulas. It helps relate the idea that having multiples of similar parts will affect the mass. BtNt will have a different mass than BtNt2, but the law of multiple proportions should still hold true.

Objective: You will be doing measurements and calculations on nuts and bolts and combinations of the two. In this experiment nuts will be given the symbol Nt and bolts the symbol Bt and they will be referred to as ‘atoms’. The symbol BtNt2 refers to a combination of one bolt and two nuts and will be referred to as the BtNt2 ‘molecule’. You must show ALL work for each calculation and give all answers in significant figures.

Julie C. Gilbert is a Chemistry teacher who happens to spend summers writing YA, sci-fi, and Christian novels.

Connect with Julie on FaceBook or Twitter.
Ashlynn’s Dreams is the first book in the Devya’s Children series. In Ashlynn’s Dreams, you’ll meet a young Dream Shaper named Jillian, her genetically altered siblings, and her babysitter.  
The Collins Case is a Christian mystery and the first book in the Heartfelt Cases series

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