Hands-on projects teach more than just science

One might expect chemistry to be boring, but this sophomore science class is lab after lab of engaging, hands-on projects that have the students interacting, problem-solving, and even presenting their work to faculty members who are invited to judge and review their finished products. Read on to take a quick peek inside Mr. Jorge Serrato’s chemistry class for a behind-the-scenes look at their recent “hot rocks” project.

Hot Rocks Lab Presentation

For this lab, the students’ main objective was to determine the specific heat of a rock or object and then formulate two secondary questions to test. For some students, this lab was one of the more challenging ones they had done. A few echoed the sentiments that it put their problem-solving skills to the test as they were only given the equation and then went on to design their experiments. Mr. Serrato said it encourages the students to think about it on their own and identify how they can apply this knowledge in real life; something he focuses on with every project. Working through the initial challenges, the students enjoyed the lab and their excitement was visible as they presented their completed projects and newfound knowledge.

Student Presentation

The lab took a week from start to finish. Students began by brainstorming possible ways to find out the specific heat of their rocks. Working in groups, they spent time in class writing down their procedures, collecting their tools, performing tests, and analyzing their data. The culmination of the lab was to create a presentation board that showcased their experiments. The boards were displayed in class and Mr. Serrato invited other faculty to come through in an open-house fashion to review their work and ask questions. The process allowed the students to demonstrate their full understanding of the lessons and experiments.

Chemistry Science Lab

From here, Mr. Serrato said, this wraps up this unit, but they’ll use the techniques learned here in other units later on, continuing to build upon their knowledge and scientific skills.

Mr. Serrato joined the TMI community as a member of the Science Department and Residential Life program in 2016. He earned his bachelors from the School of Chemistry and his masters from the Marine Science and Limnology Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Serrato Chemistry Class

Contributed by Stephanie Livsey
Director of Community Relations, TMI

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