How to measure oxygen

I wanted my honors chemistry students to see how chemists of old discovered the make-up of water using test tubes, batteries, and pushpins. The process would allow students to measure the amount of gas produced in each test tube and see it was a two:one ratio. All of this sounds great. Until I tested it out for myself…

The brass pushpins made hydrogen gas ok, but I couldn’t get oxygen. The silver ones worked a little better, but I still wasn’t able to produce oxygen gas. I tried salt water, I tried baking soda in water. I tried vinegar in water. I spent 3 straight mornings not grading or helping students, but trying to figure out this stupid lab. Jus when I was ready to give up, I found a site that reminded me graphic conducted electricity. So I made graphite water electrolysis devices.

Step one: poke holes in plastic cups.

Step two: insert pencil lead into said holes.

Step three: Use paraffin wax to secure the pencil lead.

Step four: Make thirteen more so that every pair can have one.

Step five: Test it to make sure it works

Step six: Cry when your 3rd hour class breaks the lead on half of them and you have to spend half of your lunch fixing them.

Step seven: Find out how much this set-up costs on Flinn Scientific and add it to you list for next year.

All and all I don’t think a single student got the 2:1 ratio of hydrogen to oxygen but they had a lot of fun setting it up and breaking apart the water. We’ll leave discussing just what the heck happened to Monday when I’m less frazzled from helping them set up the stupid thing correctly.

Oh, and if anyone knows a better solution to use besides salt, baking soda, or vinegar, please let me know in the comments!

Advertisements

Loss

I was going to write a blog post about Disneyland, seeing as how my Disney season is starting.  But then something happened and I couldn’t write about how happy I was.  My friend took his life.  I wasn’t prepared for it.

I don’t think anyone is really prepared for when their friend takes their own life.  It’s a shock to everyone because they seemed fine.  They make plans with people, reach out, try new things.  They has just hung out with people.  They were going out with people the next day.

I don’t know what happened and I won’t pretend to understand.  I know I can’t understand what he was going through.  I know I can’t understand how other people closer to him feel.  I know that I miss my friend.  I know that there is so much I want to tell him.

I want to tell him that I love him.  I’m sorry I hadn’t reached out in a while.  We get busy, there is stuff to do, he’ll be there tomorrow or next week or next month and I’ll see him then.  I would like to have one more conversation with him.  We used to have these great conversations when we were in high school.  The kind of conversations that only 16 year olds can have.  We used to have great conversations when we were older too.  I will miss the great conversations that could have been.

I want to tell him that I even though I didn’t talk to him often, I thought about him.  We had been friends for more than 17 years.  That kind of friendship doesn’t just go away.  Even if we didn’t speak, he was in my thoughts and memories.

I want to tell him that I’m angry.  So many people loved him and cared about him.  But I know that wouldn’t have made a difference.  Sometimes, there are things that can’t been seen because they can’t be felt.  Sometimes, we get to this place where the end seems to be the only way out.  That doesn’t make me any less angry.

I want to tell him that I miss him.  And that I’m sad that he is gone.  I went numb when I was told, but after the numbness came the tears.  Sometimes, I wasn’t sure I could every stop crying.  True, we hadn’t talked in months, but I never thought I would never be able to talk to him again.  Even now, I don’t want to believe it.

Mostly, I want to tell him that I will remember him.  I will remember the good times we had together.  I will remember the laughter and the smiles.  I will remember the sarcasm.  I will remember when he was there for me when I needed a friend to lean on.  I will remember him.  I will miss him.  I hope you are resting in peace, my friend.


Flipping the classroom

This year I decided to experiment with my classroom a little bit.  I don’t like to lecture.  I find it boring and can see when the students just tune out.  So this year I decided I am going to flip my classroom.  So far so good.

So what does a flipped classroom look like.  Instead of students being bored to tears with a lecture every day in class and then going home and struggling with homework, we do the opposite.  I let them be bored at home and watch videos or read notes and we do the homework part in class where they can get more help.  This approach allows students to take their time with their notes, go back and re-read/watch the parts that were confusing, and jot down things that they need help with while at home.  Then they come to school and do the practice, lab, or activity in class to get a deeper understanding of the materials.

There are pros and cons to flipping the classroom.  The biggest con is the fact that some students will not actually watch the videos or read the lessons.  So far, I have found that a small number of students fall into this category.  I tie their lecture notes to a small participation grade which helps motivate students into doing their part.  I also make sure that what they are learning at home directly ties into what we are doing in the class the next day.  So far, students seem to understand the need to come prepared to class.  The other major con is the actual learning outcomes.  Much of the research about flipped classrooms is behind paywalls, which means I can’t access it as a teacher (which is its own problem in education and other fields).  The articles I do have access to touch on this problem but do not explore it directly, so I’m not sure if flipping the classroom is actually an effective way to reach students.  Alls I can do is look at how it affects my students and see if I want to continue next semester.

The pros are pretty great though.  I have time in class to help students when they are stuck on problems.  I have time to do more labs and hands-on science with students.  I have my students up and doing things or working together or actually doing chemistry in the classroom.  Those are all things that have been shown in multiple studies and reviews to help students (Carini, Kuh, & Klein, 2006; Chen et al, 2014; Lazonder & Ehrenhard, 2014; Jong, Linn, & Zacharia, 2013).  The more assistance and feedback students receive from their teachers, the better they do.  And if having them work more in class means I can give them better feedback, than I will continue to flip my classroom.

Flipping the classroom is definitely a difficult thing to do.  It requires lots of work on my end to create short videos for my students.  But it’s something I am going to continue doing for this semester.  I can look at test data and student data to see if this method works for my population of students.  Because in the end, it’s all about doing what is right for students.


Here we go again

School has started!  Tables are in groups, white board markers are ready, seating charts are made, and syllabus have been read.  We are officially back to school.  Happy end of summer, fellow teachers.

Every year, I want to tell my new students so much.  I want to tell them that I am there for them, truly.  I want them to succeed and I want them to understand and I want them to try their very best.  I also want them to fail and I want them to struggle and I want them to say that they don’t get it.  I want my students to experience what it is like to have a super easy time with something.  I want them to experience what it is like to have to struggle like hell to get something.  I want my students to experience life in all the nitty-gritty (but not too nitty-gritty because they are just 16 after all) that I can offer.

This may sound weird, but I tell all of my students that they will fail at some point in my class.  I don’t mean that they will get an F.  I mean that they will not do something as well as they thought they had.  They will have to give up on something they didn’t want to.  They will not meet their expectations.  I tell them that because I want them to know that failure is not the end.  Yeah, I know that quiz was hard and you got a C on it when you wanted a B.  What are you going to do about it?  Yeah, I know you didn’t understand the instructions and got a B instead of an A.  What are you going to do next time?  Because I think that when someone fails is when they really start to realize what they are made of.

I also let my students know that it’s okay to be wrong about something.  I’m wrong somethings.  I mess up and do things incorrectly.  And, you know what, that’s ok.  I’ve made it this far and to crashed and burned out (mostly).  I think we don’t let students fail enough.  I think we don’t let students try to pick themselves up without help.  I think we put the safety net too high.  Oh, there is a safety net, to be sure, but maybe we can let them try to figure out how to fall correctly before showing them that the safety net is there (maybe that metaphor got away from me a little, but you know what I mean).

So students, I really do adore all of you.  Yes, all of you.  But I am going to be harsh and hard and enforce things that you don’t like.  I am going to push you and push you because I know you can do better.  And I am going to help you out to the best of my ability every time.

Welcome to Ms. Doskocil’s class of 2017-2018.


Just the Right Amount of Excitement

I recently went to a movie theater and watched Cars 3, which was excellent but not the point of this story.  At the theater, I saw a poster for Star Wars: The Last Jedi and just about lost my mind.  I was so excited.  I took a picture of the movie poster.  I walked out of the theater giddy.  I was practically bouncing.

Maybe I was too excited.

I’ve had this happen to me before.  There is a button at the end of the new King Kong movie (not the Peter Jackson one but the new new one) that showed some of the other giant monster legends, i.e. Godzilla, Mothra, the cray Hydra looking one, and I literally squeed like a teen-age girl at a One Direction concert.  The person I was with casually (and in no way disrespectfully) commented that I was maybe a bit too excited about the new brand of giant monster movies coming out.  This got me thinking: what is “too excited”?

I have many fandoms: Disney, Kingdom Hearts, Zelda, and The Dresden Files to name a few.  I get excited when I see that something new is coming out or that something is being redone in an interesting way. (BTW, I don’t care what you think, that Dresden Files TV show was awesome!  Damn SciFi channel for canceling it!).  Sometimes I get really excited about things.  But I’m not sure that I’ve ever been “too excited” about my fandoms.  I’ve been exactly as excited as I want to be.  My level of excitement is proportional to my interest in the thing.  I’m not really sure when this “you’re too excited” thing started.  Do people say that to sports fans?  “You’re too excited about the Patriots winning?”  Or is it just this thing that is reserved for “geeks” and our fandoms.

I’m not going to worry about being too excited for the new Star Wars movie, or the new Star Wars land in Disneyland.  Or any of the upcoming events in my life.  I’ve got the right kind of excitement going on.


Bite Somebody Else book cover released!

Yaaaaass!

Author Sara Dobie Bauer wrote a book called Bite Somebody about awkward vampire Celia.  I wrote about it here.  Among the crazy cast of characters is Imogene, a vamp with a serious crush on the 80’s and a badass attitude.  Now, Imogene looks to be the star in Bauer’s newest book, Bite Somebody Else.  Below, in all her glory, is Imogene on the newly released book cover.

BiteSomebodyElse_final_wrapRGB

Looking forward to reading about the shenanigans of Imogene, Celia, and Ian when the book is released June 20th, 2017.


Rory Gilmore and the 30-somethings

Gilmore Girls was one of those shows that I found by complete accident and have since fallen in love with.  I was an intern at the Center for Animal Research and Education (CARE) where one of the other interns was a watching the show during a rare break.  Having already finished all of the Harry Potter books that summer and with nothing else pressing to do, I decided to sit down and watch with her.  And I was hooked.  It became a daily ritual: get up, water the cats, do the chores, schedule lunch around Gilmore Girls reruns so that I could watch it.

Lorelai Gilmore became my spirit animal.  I wished that I could be as sassy and quick witted and coffee-fueled as this ultra-super mom.  She was (and still is) who I want to be when I grow up, partly because she can eat anything, but mostly because she was a self-suffiant woman who worked hard for her accomplishments.  At the same time, she wasn’t afraid to ask for help when she needed it, even if she needed to ask her parents.  Lorelai Gilmore was how I thought people were supposed to adult correctly.

I know many of my friends don’t like Rory Gilmore and have never liked Rory Gilmore.  I tend to have a little different view of Rory.  Yes, she was annoying, but what teenager isn’t annoying (I work with teenagers, so I know how annoying they can be).  She made some stupid decisions because we all make stupid decisions in our teens and twenties.  No, she shouldn’t have dumped Dean for Jesse.  No, she shouldn’t have slept with Dean after he was married.  Yes, she treated Marty like shit and he really didn’t deserve it.  But she wasn’t so bad, either.  She worked hard to go after her goals, she befriended Paris Geller, she supported Lane in her music career.  At the end of the seven season run, I was on team Rory.  I supported her decision to leave Logan and find herself.  I wanted to see her succeed.

You can image my disappointment when Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life showed Rory as a selfish, entitled little girl with no goals and apparently no job history.  For as much as I loved Lorelai and Luke’s relationship in A Year in the Life, for as much as I loved watching Emily Gilmore find herself after the death of her husband, for as much as I missed seeing Richard Gilmore, I really hated Rory and the way the show producers decided to portray 30-something year olds.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the run down: Rory Gilmore is lost. She doesn’t have an apartment so she is moving around between Lorelai’s place, Emily’s place, Paris’s place in New York, and Logan’s (yes, that Logan) place in London. For a person with no job, she certainly travels a lot, though. How the freak does she afford the plane tickets from New York to London every other week? Is Logan paying for it? Her grandmother? Anyway, that’s not the point. Her main source of accomplishment is writing a piece for the New Yorker, which is great. In ten years since leaving Yale, she has finally written a piece for a prestigious magazine and is now using that to help propel her career forward. Except she’s not. And I think that is my main problem with Rory in this new mini-series. She thinks she is above an internet magazine, but takes the interview anyway and has nothing to say about herself. Really? You are a 32 year old woman and you don’t know how to sell yourself to a potential job? I don’t know any 30-something year old who doesn’t know how to do that. Maybe they are out there, but I’ve never met them. So Rory moves home and meets the 30-something club (or whatever the hell they call it).

I understand being down on your luck. I understand losing a job and having to scramble to figure it out. I understand not knowing what to do and going home, but this is where the show lost me. I don’t understand any of the motives of the 30-something club. Here’s a bunch of 30-something year olds with no jobs because “the world chewed them up and spit them out” according to Taylor Doose. But more than that, they seem like they don’t even care that they don’t have a job. They seem perfectly happy with sipping on milk shakes and letting their parents take care of them. Maybe I take this to heart because I am a 30-something year old and most of my friends are 30-something year olds, but I actually found that group in the show offensive.

I am a 33 year-old woman. Many of my friends are 30-something year old men and women. None of them live with their parents. None of them are content with drinking milk shakes while their parents try to help them find a job. None of them wander around the town like lost puppies with nothing to do. All of them are hard working individuals with jobs, apartments or houses, children or pets. Some have spouses, some have significant others, some are single. All have dealt with lose and tragedy and frustration, yet they have struggled on to meet success. This is how 30-somethings deal with the difficulties of the “real world”, by staring it in the face and shouting, “fuck you” while drinking some wine (or craft beer). We build our friendships, relay on each other, ask our parents for help or advice when we need it, and generally kick ass because we know all about the harsh realities of the real world. We know all about crippling student debt and bad job markets. We know all about losing jobs and being rejected. And we still go out there every day and fight for what we want. We definitely don’t sit in the candy store and drink milk shakes and pretend that we don’t have to worry about the world because our parents will take care of us.


NeuroLogica Blog

DaynaJD's Blog

Paleocave Blog

Trust us, we're scientists

Brachiolope Media

The best podcasts in all of SCIENCE!

Sara Dobie Bauer

Author of BITE SOMEBODY and other ridiculous things