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Showcasing Becky Miller and "Mole Day"

"Every year, on October 23, we celebrate "Mole Day" to commemorate Avogadro's number," chemistry teacher Becky Miller told Education World. "Almost every chemistry class in the nation does some activity for Mole Day. In my Chemistry I classes, for example, we usually have academic relay races.

"I wanted to do something different with my Chemistry II students, however. Because most of them are academically sound and trustworthy seniors, I decided that doing chemistry activities in the elementary schools would be beneficial both to the young students and to my own." So Miller arranged for her eleventh and twelfth graders at James Buchanan High School in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, to visit five classes at nearby Mountain View Elementary School, and offer fun chemistry activities for the school's kindergartners and third and fourth graders.

"I found several low-cost chemistry activities for kids and I let my students choose the ones they wanted to perform," Miller recalled. "They presented their selected activities to me as a practice.

"Then, on Mole Day, the chemistry students set up three to four activity stations in each elementary classroom. The younger students visited each station, remaining at each one for about 5-10 minutes before rotating to the next. At most of the stations, the elementary students received a worksheet to use to record data or to color their observations (kindergarten)."

When they returned to their own classroom, the high schoolers wrote reflective papers about the event; not one responded negatively to the experience. Miller also was impressed by how seriously her students approached their "teaching" responsibilities.

"Some of the elementary classes wrote us thank you notes," Miller added, "and as I looked through the letters, I noticed that every student seemed to have a different favorite activity. Some enjoyed the glitter slime; others liked the pop rocket. There was an activity in which students compared how well soda, vinegar, lemon juice, and so on, cleaned pennies. In kindergarten, they colored with food to demonstrate pigments; at another station, students made stained glass glue. My personal favorite was probably the tried and true baking soda and vinegar volcano."

"Mole Day" took quite a bit of planning time -- contacting teachers, downloading activities, purchasing supplies, getting permission slips, and even organizing the supplies and putting them away. Student preparation and practice also took class time, but Miller reports that the event was more than worth the time and effort. She encourages other teachers to try a similar activity.

"When I look back at the end of the year, I know that Mole Day will be one of the highlights for me and my students," said Miller. "In fact, we are hoping to visit another elementary school in the spring; this time, my students want to spend an entire day there, of course!"

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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
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