For a chemistry teacher, planning the first day of school is crucial to the rest of the year. You must teach proper safety habits to prevent accidents. Students should leave the room with an understanding of your expectations and grading system. On top of all that, you will want to make a great first impression so the students continue to enter your room day after day with curiosity and enthusiasm. Fitting all of this into one class session is challenging, but feasible.
Rules and Safety
Ask the class to help you brainstorm rules for the classroom. They will not think of everything, so add what they forget. Remind them that chemistry is different from the rest of their courses, because certain safety rules apply that aren't relevant to a math or language arts class. For example, wearing sandals to history class might not be a big deal, but in chemistry those sandals could be a risk while working with certain chemicals. Explain the rules that apply specifically for lab days. Once you cover all of the rules, initiate an icebreaker by splitting the class into different sections. Have each group create and perform a skit teaching lab safety.
First Day Experiment
Set up a short and fun activity for your students. Pour 50 mL of concentrated nitric acid into a 500 mL flask. Drop a piece of copper wire into the flask. Insert a stopper with a tube running through it. Place the other end of the tube into a large jug or container of water. Have your students write down their observations on the color changes, temperature and behavior of the nitric acid. Chemmybear.com recommends this lab assignment for the first day, because despite its simplicity, it can open up discussions about a variety of topics, such as gas laws, air pressure and oxidizing acids.
Philosophy of Chemistry
Blur the lines between hard sciences and humanities by leading a discussion on philosophical thought in chemistry. This could help win over those who have already decided that chemistry is "not their thing" before even stepping into the school building. Show your students that chemistry can be more than just the periodic table. Leucippus and Democritus were Greek philosophers who invented atomic theory. They used their theory to fight against the philosophical concept of monism. Open a class discussion about other ways chemistry has been used or could be used outside of textbooks and lab rooms.
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