In his State of the Union address a few days ago, President Barack Obama stated that “We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.” Yet it is sometimes difficult to get students excited about studying science. Enter the International Year of Chemsitry (IYC), a yearlong, worldwide celebration of chemistry sponsored by some of the leading international chemistry organizations in the world. As Andrew Liveris (president of the International Council of Chemical Associations, one main sponsor of the event) notes, “95 percent of the things that touch our lives — such as food, water, shelter, transportation, and medicine — are made possible through chemistry,” and the goal of the IYC is to help show people just how important chemistry is in daily life.
To get students involved in the celebration, the IYC designed a Global Experiment called “Water: A Chemical Solution,” which has the potential to be the largest chemistry experiment ever. Students from all over the globe will participate in the water themed experiments by testing how chemistry can be applied to purify water so it can be consumed. More specifically there are four activities that students will complete while taking part in the experiment: 1) acidity 2) salinity 3) filtration 4) solar still. Here is a more in-depth look into what students will be exploring in each required activity.
Acidity- In the first activity students will use pH strips and learn about the pH scale in order to measure the pH of their local body of water. They finish by learning methods for testing the reliability of their results.
Salinity- The Salinity activity provides students the experience of making their own water meter and testing the conductivity and salt presence in their particular water sample.
Filtration- Students must work with household or classroom found materials to construct a functioning water filtration system. In addition, they must test out and rank the filtration abilities of different materials. Then they will end this activity by carrying out an actual water treatment and filtration and record their findings on the Global Experiment website.
Solar Still- The Solar Still activity provides students experience in alternative methods of purifying water, with specific attention to the distillation process.
The Global Experiment assumes that teachers will direct students when they are carrying out each experiment, but the experiment encourages guidance and supervision from any adults willing to get involved. It does not matter if a teacher or parent has background in chemistry; the experiment comes with specific directions with regard to the methods and materials necessary for the successful completion of the modules. According to the IYC, the experiments will cost very little, if anything at all, to get as many people participating as possible. Finally, they designed experiments based on the level of education for those involved. Elementary school children can follow simpler experiments while those in middle or high school have increasingly complex and challenging tasks.
The International Year of Chemistry kicks off February 6th, and the Global Experiment runs all year, so if you believe that your child or your class would enjoy participating in the experiment visit the website! It is an easy yet terrific way to get students excited about science, and it also gets students involved in helping to solve the problem many countries have accessing clean drinking water. When Liveris was in grade school he says he became “hooked on the knowledge that chemistry would open the door to innovations that would make the world a better place.” Hopefully, by getting involved with the Global Experiment, more and more students will start to feel this way!
Alan Parker is a blogger based out of New York, NY who writes about alternative energy, green business, sustainability, and climate change.
Follow on Twitter @AGreenParker
(Thank you Alan Parker for this very valuable guest blog)
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