Modifying Instruction for an advanced student
March 15, 2012 4:26 PM   Subscribe

Chemistry research ideas for an 8th grader?

I have a student in my class who is extremely advanced as it is, and then she also already covered everything in my class earlier in the year because she is a transfer student from another school.

She is in desperate need of enrichment. I asked her what she might be interested in, and she didn't really have any ideas, so I touted the idea of doing a research project.

I'm extremely interested in doing this so I don't mind spending a few hours every week or more for specialized instruction of this student.

The problem is that whatever she is doing, it has to be something that she can work towards while she is in class (either instead of the usual work or in addition to -- she finishes all work in class like 90% faster than the other students anyway). We do have a fully stocked lab that she can use after school on Wednesdays ONLY while I supervise.

My first idea is to get her started reading up on research methodology, and practices.

I would like ideas for this student, and since we are covering Chemistry right now, it might be interesting to do something related to that, though any physical science topics would be fine. Are there any ideas you guys can provide me with? Or resources? Etc.?
posted by Peregrin5 to Education (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Ferrofluids! Some DIY instructions are available.
Also, Non-Newtonian fluids!

The Journal of Chemical Education may have some experiments, but I'm not too familiar with it. You can also google "High School Chemistry Experiments," which will generate a number of options up her alley.

You should also tell her that physics is cooler than chemistry! :)
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 4:54 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


An analytical chemistry/characterization project seems appropriate for an 8th grader. Characterizing soil or water contaminants in your town might be a fun way to get practice at experiment design, sample collection, wet labwork, and data analysis. Depending on your equipment, and patience for sorting out possible interferences, there's a bunch of potential candidates for your analyte of interest: pharmaceutical residues from discarded meds vs pesticides vs fuels vs Pb paint.
posted by janell at 8:15 PM on March 15, 2012


I took an analytical chemistry class that culminated in a self-directed project to determine the concentrations of active ingredients in household/common items. That was sophomore-college level, but I think many of the techniques/principles would be fine for a bright and motivated 8th grader (ex. determining fluoride concentration in toothpaste by precipitating calcium fluoride, finding mass of Vitamin C or aspirin in a tablet with acid-base titration, etc.)

One way to structure it would be to have her read up a bit on basic analytic techniques, let her come up with a few potential analytes, veto any that aren't feasible for whatever reason, then have her come up with a procedure (with you providing nudges in the right direction as needed.)

(P.S. I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry, because I had an awesome science teacher when I was 13 who challenged me and encouraged my interests. Thank you for taking the time and effort to do this for your student.)
posted by kagredon at 8:33 PM on March 15, 2012


Could not agree more with janell; involving young people with their environment is a great motivator for continued interest.

Peregrin5, your profile doesn't state where you are located, but are there any liberal arts colleges nearby? When I was doing undergrad summer research, we had a highschool student (albeit, grade 11) who was doing some molecular biology work, with us. And this was a decade ago. Maybe email some chemistry faculty and see if they'd be willing to mentor a bright young pupil?

The PI of the lab down the hall (at a good research university) has been doing highschool outreach programs (mostly to secure tenure) and he's had highschool students in his lab doing electrophysiology and in vivo live imaging.

Perhaps there are chemistry profs who might be interested and your student could get hands-on time at a real working research lab. And all the attendant safety protocols that have to be followed =)

Depending on the size of your community and the sophistication of your wastewater management utility... there's a heck of a lot of microbiology involved. Modern urban wastewater management facilities are very elegant in how they use gradients of different environments and microflora to make wastewater safe. The sublime study of this science, though, is carried out at places like NASA and its ilk - CHON (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen) recycling.

Ask around, you might get a lot of interest from your local higher educators.
posted by porpoise at 9:14 PM on March 15, 2012


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