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Earlier this fall, I was asked by Deanna York, author of Teacher Friendly Chemistry Labs and Activities if I would review her chemistry books. I jumped at the chance as I am always on the lookout for great science resources for teaching my boys. I also wanted to see if this would mesh well with Friendly Chemistry which is a bit light on experiments.
Disclaimer ~ I was sent the two volume set in binders as well as a copy of the softcover version of Volume 1 for the purpose of completing this review. No other compensation was provided and the opinions in the post are my own. Amazon affiliate links are present in the post.
Well, what I found is a great resource for getting students to do hands-on work. It isn’t perfect for homeschoolers, but definitely something that can be adapted for use in your house. (I’ll elaborate more in a bit.)
Reading on the back cover of the book, it sums up the goal of this books as trying to help chemistry teachers stretch a small budget while providing hands-on experiences in the classroom with minimal preparation.
I’d agree with that statement. Each of the lab activities has sheets to copy for the students as well as teacher notes for the lab and one lab sheet prefilled with responses that serves as an answer key. Those teacher notes list all the supplies needed for the lab, including whether it is single station or a central depository. So far, so good for ease of use factor.
The first volume even starts off with a week of easy labs to get the students excited about learning as well as aquatint them with different equipment they’ll be using throughout the year. Even if you have somewhat seasoned science students, there is a definite learning curve for getting around the chemistry lab. Taking time up front to learn what’s what is a fabulous idea, especially if you actually USE the tools rather than just talk about them. I’m pretty sure my nail polishing, M&M eating high school chemistry teacher didn’t give us that kind of learning opportunity.
This is also the section of labs that I drew from for our co-op science class this year. We met in a youth center on base, so I had to plan to not have a sink in the room or even tiled floors that could handle a little mess. What amazed me is how long some of the seemingly easy labs actually took once you added the students. That’s not a bad thing, just something I did not realize when I planned out my schedule. So, we didn’t get as far into the labs as I hoped.
Beyond the first few experiments, everything else was perused by my eyes and filed away for future use either in my own home or with a group through co-op. There are a LOT of experiments I can choose to use, but the challenge in selecting ones is two fold. First off, I have to assume that in a co-op setting the kids are not exclusively studying chemistry or another physical science. The class I co-taught was titled ‘Science Experiments’ which left it quite open for interpretation for expectations.
The second challenge is something that would apply to almost any homeschool setting. Some of the experiments are best performed in an actual lab space with a hood. The Penny Alloy lab is the one that cried out as fun to do, but without access to lab space with a hood it just won’t happen. Safety is first for any scientific experiment and I really appreciated that bold lettering emphasized the portion that needed to be done under the hood.
A related challenge for the homeschooler is finding common household items that could take the place of regular laboratory equipment. The easiest solution would probably be to purchase a chemistry kit for home use (so you get fun things like beakers and test tubes.) Going this route would even lend itself really well to a co-op setting where chemistry is THE focus and the supplies can be purchased with pooled funds.
Overall, though, this is a great resource for a homeschool parent wanting to bring hands-on learning to middle or high school chemistry studies. I’d even say that you could merge this resource with a curriculum like Friendly Chemistry to end up with a good, foundational study of chemistry.
Downloadable files or Binder formats of the two volumes can be purchased on The Chemistry Teacher website. PDF only format for download is $50 per volume. PDF plus Word (so you can customize as needed) is $70 per volume. Pre-printed and in a binder costs $48 including shipping. There is also an option to add the digital format on a CD-ROM bringing the cost up to $108 per volume.
A bound, softcover versions can be found at Amazon: Teacher Friendly Chemistry Labs and Activities (Vol. 1) and More Teacher Friendly Chemistry Labs and Activities (Vol. 2).
My personal preference is the binder format (or a straight pdf download) so I can more easily prepare the lab sheets.