Johnnie Lyman from High Tech High North County shares how students in her 10th grade chemistry class did home experiments by using materials in their house and asking testable questions.
[MUSIC PLAYING] JOHNNIE LYMAN: Out of the two possible scenarios of how to tackle distance learning, whether to keep it like school was, or embrace the unusualness of it. I’ve definitely gone with the embrace the unusualness of it. I think there’s an opportunity for students to investigate things around them even more than they normally would.
What we did was– I often start with something that’s a fun color change in chemistry, that just gets students to go, whoa, why did that happen? What’s going on there? So I was trying to think of something that they could safely do at home. And you can make a pH indicator with red cabbage really easily at home.
And you just need some boiling water and a red cabbage and you’re pretty much set to go. So students were tasked with designing their own investigation. And I set up a digital lab notebook for them that they had to go through, how to choose a testable question. What does it mean to be a testable question?
MARIAH: My question was, what in my house has the highest pH?
ASHLEY: So my question was, depending on the temperature of the cabbage water how would the color of the cabbage water change?
JOHNNIE LYMAN: And then get them to actually test that question.
SINQI: The pH levels for the old cabbage were all the same when I’m looking at the indicator that you gave us like that photo. They were all 14, whereas the numbers were– there was a bigger variety with the newer cabbage.
JOHNNIE LYMAN: It was like a chemistry cooking show that day. It was really fun. There were a lot of students that brought their camera into the kitchen and they were chopping and showing their cabbage water to their classmates.
ALLISON: After that, I added a teaspoon of each ingredient in there, sprite, baking soda, and salt. And after that, the color started to change.
JOHNNIE LYMAN: Getting them to suddenly ask, what is happening? And why is this happening? And then get a chance to just investigate things around their house was really fun.
ALLISON: So for my experiment, I decided that I was going to pick three different vegetables that were colored similarly to the cabbage that we use to make the pH indicator water. And I was going to test them with three different properties that I remember the cabbage water had a reaction to. The three vegetables that I ended up choosing where radishes, red onions, and beets. So I chopped all of them up, put them in some boiled water for a few minutes, and the water ended up looking like this for all of them.
JOHNNIE LYMAN: There’s yes or no questions. Where you’re not really setting up an investigation around it. So we could ask the question, is lemon juice acidic? Yes. Right, we could just Google that. I like to foster the types of questions that students will then generate more questions with because when the students have questions, they actually want to know the answers.
I think the other piece is just getting them to think about why something happened so getting past just asking the question, but then looking at real data that they had gathered and thinking about why does that data look the way it does?