Trina Toups has a master’s degree in physical chemistry from the University of Minnesota (1991). Her interest in teaching was sparked by the need to homeschool her older daughter, who was hungry for more math and science than were provided in school. Trina has continued to teach classes in chemistry, biology, and earth sciences from the middle school to AP levels to homeschoolers in the greater Boston region, as well as tutoring clients who attend local area high schools. Trina has gradually acquired a collection of useful science equipment, including burets and electrochemistry equipment(made by her EE husband). Her most interesting chemistry class was teaching two 7-8 year old boys chemistry with experiments last year.
Outside of teaching, Trina’s interests are a science fiction book group, knitting, and bicycling. She also enjoys family visits to museums, especially science and industrial revolution venues.
Beginning with the historical transition from alchemy to chemistry, we will study how experiments led to chemistry as a quantitative science, and to understanding of the structure of atoms, and the development of the periodic table.
Chemistry: Discovering the Elements is recommended for learners ages 13 to 18. This course takes us beyond the traditional descriptive chemistry to delve into why elements react the way they do. By gaining a deeper understanding of the structure and properties of atoms, we will then be ready to move on to understanding chemical reactivity in another course.
We will begin with a brief overview of science as a way of learning about the world, followed by a discussion of basic discoveries along the way to the science of chemistry, including Dalton’s Atomic theory of matter. Then we will look at different types of radiation as a window into the atom, finishing with spectroscopy and the electronic structure of atoms. By the end, it is hoped that the students will be able to explain the periodic properties of the elements. Students will also have an opportunity to brush up on the type of math needed for scientific work, as a preparation for further studies.
For the final project in this course, students will take a historical look at a particular scientist and his or her discoveries. They will also trace the history of a particular element, and its importance to earth cycles and human technology (preferably one studied by their scientist). This will be made into a class “book” on Google Drive. In addition, there will be regular homework, which will be carefully chosen to be instructive and not unduly repetitive.
Sample Course Outline
Classes will usually consist of presentation of material using a whiteboard, collaboration with students on calculations, and video demonstrations. Homework may be collected twice a week via Google Docs folder, with opportunity for student-student and teacher collaboration.
- Introduction to the Scientific Method as a recursive activity. Calculations, numbers based on physical reality, and unit conversions. How to keep track of your work.
- Development of a scientific approach to the study of matter. Several of the early chemists such as Boyle and Dalton will be mentioned, as well as Dalton’s Atomic Theory of Matter. Students will be able to choose a historical scientist for research and report.
- The experiments which led to modern atomic structure.
- Isotopes, nuclear chemistry transitions, and calculation of atomic mass from percent isotopic composition. Radioisotope calculations.
- Formation of the elements, students will be asked to pick an element from the instructor’s list, and report on its origin and history, it’s presence in the Earth’s geochemical cycles, and its major uses.
- Radiant energy and Bohr’s model for the hydrogen atom, the photoelectric effect, and quantum states. Wave and particle behavior of matter. Quantum mechanics and atomic orbitals
- Wave and particle behavior of matter. Quantum mechanics and atomic orbitals. Electron configurations and the periodic table.
- Periodic properties of the elements. At this point, we will have reached our goal of understanding why the periodic table is shaped the way it is, and how scientists came to understand the inner workings of the atom.
Chemistry: Discovering the Elements is offered Fall 2019.