Consumer Chemistry

Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:16 PM

I've been asked by some colleagues for ideas on a new "Consumer Chemistry" course at the high school level. They want the course to be more than a watered-down traditional chemistry class for students who need a science credit. They're looking for suggestions for resources, themes, essential questions, projects, investigations/activities that would be chemistry-focused and engaging. We'd appreciate your suggestions and experiences. Thanks!

Mary Bigelow
Mary Bigelow
7575 Activity Points

Sat Jul 29, 2017 11:06 AM

Have you looked at ideas from ChemCom and Chemistry in Context for ideas. I used their topics to develop a place-based consumer chemistry based on water.

I used our local stream and our state's River Watch ( to introduce elements, clean water qualities, ions, solubility, solutions, even chemistry equipment and procedures. We visited our local waste water treatment plant and then I found out students thought our water came from the water tanks in town-didn't know the real source so we drove past the five wells and treatment building for the town's drinking water-which brought in ions, pre-&post treatment, used the water's water quality report to introduce ions, and for a final assessment gave students a sample of "foul water" to clean up using their chemistry knowledge and equipment in the lab. Since it was place-based, I would revise according to any local water issues.

We also investigated the labels in their foods and what those chemicals were-structures, functions, etc.

We produced alum from aluminum connected to a recycling unit.

I also had students the first month-or quarter do Adopt an element to familiarize themselves and decorate the classroom with elements from the periodic table. I have a word file of this but I couldn't upload it. I can email it to you,, if you like. email me with Adopt an element in the subject! I have modified this to adopt a molecule or even adopt a product and explain the chemistry beind the main 1-x ingredients.

I stressed unit analysis, dimensional analysis , unit conversion (only metric but in consumer maybe English units are apropos) so used Grandma Fudge recipe as a formative assessment of unit conversions.

I have been using plant extracts to introduce chromatography and spectrophotometry as well as dyeing. Still working on that aspect but you could also use that in foods.

If I can find my lesson/unit plans, I will send them along but I think they are on a flash drive in my office back home (I am a student 720 miles away from home right now and do not have access to my school home page anymore; only have it saved).

Hope this helps you!

Bev DeVore-Wedding
Bev DeVore-Wedding
3370 Activity Points

Sat Jul 29, 2017 5:58 PM

Bev, thank you for the information and links. I am a first year teacher and I look forward to using the resources you mentioned. I really want to engage my students and you have provided some great material. Thank you again.

Maureen Gregorio
Maureen Gregorio
20 Activity Points

Sun Jul 30, 2017 9:32 AM


If you have any other questions, I will be more than happy to assist if I
can. When I am home over Labor Day, I will dig out my files, and I can
send you my syllabus/lessons plans that I had to post daily for principal.

I taught in a rural school and had to frequently adapt, modify, and revise
often on the fly!

Have fun!


Beverly R. DeVore-Wedding
*Graduate Student Assistant: **Framing the Chemistry Curriculum*

*Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education*
*206 Henzlik Hall*
*University of Nebraska, Lincoln*

*Lincoln NE 68588*

*"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn" *
Mardy Murie from "Where the Mountains are Nameless by Jonathan Waterman,
*Modified from Joseph Cotton Dana, 1912*

Bev DeVore-Wedding
Bev DeVore-Wedding
3370 Activity Points

Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:34 PM

Thanks! Our colleague has access to this forum, and I'm sure your suggestions will be helpful. It sounds like you integrate chemistry topics with environmental science, botany, etc. What kind of feedback do you get from students? Just curious!

Mary Bigelow
Mary Bigelow
7575 Activity Points

Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:18 PM

Students prefer seeing why they are learning science; giving them freedom to work on a project that is relevant to them but still connected to chemistry empowers them; some even find out that chemistry is more important in their interests than they realized. They also learn skills (lab equipment) that they wouldn't if we did canned labs and everyone did the exact same lab/project. Occasionally a student will not like having to think of a project but I always keep a few of my own around for these students. One student really didn't want to do anything; I gave them 10 years worth of data on our local water quality--he went to 2-yr college to be a water quality technician, testing water for a municipality that enables him to live in the mountains of Colorado and pursue his outdoor passions. He stays in contact with local community since his parents/grandparents etc. and is a good advertiser for taking chemistry!

Overall positive feedback.

Bev DeVore-Wedding
Beverly DeVore-Wedding
3370 Activity Points

Fri Aug 04, 2017 11:04 AM

Hi Beverly -- what a great testimonial to the value of helping students see the relevance of what they are learning to "real life." Turning a class project into a career!

Mary B

Mary Bigelow
Mary Bigelow
7575 Activity Points

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers