Teaching High School Students the Importance of Chemistry

A chemistry teacher using a model to teach her student

People who are passionate about chemistry know that it permeates our everyday existence. Chemistry is responsible for changing the course of history. It has affected events as major as battles and as minor as the outcome of sore throats. Some high school students, however, may have trouble grasping the relevancy of chemistry in their daily lives. As a future chemistry teacher, you can inspire your students through your curriculum to look at the world around them in a way they have never imagined before.

Discussing the Historical Relevancy of Chemistry

Your students will be relieved to hear that you don’t expect them to memorize the structure of every molecule discussed in class, but that they should understand the importance of them. One way to demonstrate the importance of chemistry is by discussing how it has changed history and modern life in your curriculum.

One of the most notable examples is penicillin, without which the mildest of infections could become deadly. To learn about this advancement, you could assign your students some reading material on Alexander Fleming. This son of a pig farmer may have very well saved millions of lives, all because he liked to dabble in germ artwork. Your students may be fascinated to learn how Fleming painted with microbes, and in doing so, accidentally discovered that penicillin has antibiotic properties.

Choosing a Molecule of the Week

In many chemistry courses, teachers introduce students to a “Molecule of the Week” in order to highlight a certain molecule and teach its significance in the world. If you do this activity, try to choose a molecule that is relevant to current events or the calendar. For example, around Halloween, you can bring a glow stick to class and introduce diphenyl oxalate. Similarly, chlorophyll becomes more relevant as the leaves change color in the fall. You could even assign students or small groups of students to choose their own molecule of the week on a rotating basis. They would be responsible for selecting one that interests them, researching it and presenting it to the class.

Using Visual Representations as a Chemistry Teacher

Many students are visual learners, and even those who aren’t sometimes have trouble understanding abstract concepts. Many students also think that chemistry is a bit stuffy and boring, but you can teach them otherwise with visual representations. For example, when writing molecules on the whiteboard, try drawing them as cartoon characters. Color code your reducing agents and oxidizing agents and give them funny faces.

You can even take the analogy further and use it to teach concepts like electron delocalization. For example, draw one big money bag to represent a full negative charge on the oxygen in an alkoxide ion. Then, draw two small money bags to represent the oxygen in a carboxylate ion. Discuss how the two small bags each bring one-half negative charge and point out that it’s easier to carry two small bags than one large bag.

Grand Canyon University is a welcoming campus with an academically rigorous curriculum. If your career goals include teaching, click on the Request More Information to explore the programs available from our College of Education, such as the Bachelor of Science in Chemistry for Secondary Education, a comprehensive degree program that leads to initial teacher licensure.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.