We’ve all done labs with our classes that originated with a legendary teacher from 1947 and exist only as a 17th generation photocopy. For those of you who want to try something new, here are some labs that I’ve put together for your amazement and amusement. As an added bonus, all of these have been edited for clarity and ease of use – if you’re still using the old versions, you may want to have another look!
Before you do your labs:
- Student Safety Rules/Contract: If you’re anything like me, you don’t want your students to die in your classroom. To keep this from happening, how about some safety rules for them to follow?
- Lab notebook guide: If you’re going to do labs, you need a template that tells the kids how to do it. Here’s that template for them, with a grading sheet for you, too!
- 24 Lessons That Rocked The World: These 24 labs and activities are the foundation for my own chemistry classes. Each lesson includes a lab, a handout, a practice sheet, a guide for running the lab, and answer keys.
- 17 Effective Activities for New Chemistry Teachers: Another 17 labs and activities that I use all the time with my students. Generally the same format as 24 Lessons, but with a wider variety of stuff.
Miscellaneous introductory concepts:
- Paper Airplane Lab: A surprisingly versatile lab that can be used to teach the principles of the scientific method to everybody from remedial students to college students (information about how to do this is given).
- The gum lab: Which sweeteners are present in larger amounts? This lab is nice for teaching about percent composition, or just for getting students comfortable in the lab. Several variants of this lab are discussed here.
- Gold Penny Lab: Fundamentally a scientific method lab, though it is also well-suited to teach about alloys.
- Graphing lab – Cooking Spaghetti: This is a very simple lab but provides excellent practice in data interpretation. Suitable for all levels.
Properties of compounds:
- Ionic Compound Lab: Have your students determine whether or not a compound is ionic using its observable properties. Teacher materials include variations for doing this lab with students with different skill levels.
- Hydrate lab: What’s the formula of Epsom salt? Have your students find out in this inexpensive alternative to the hydrate labs we’ve known and loved.
- Chemical and physical properties lab: Is water wet? Is salt soluble? Well, this lab isn’t that easy, but it does teach about the chemical and physical properties of common chemical compounds. (If you want a simpler, sillier, and quicker version of this lab, check out the chemical and physical properties activity.
- Chemical and Physical Changes Lab: Have your students figure out whether various laboratory exercises result in chemical or physical changes. Depending on what processes you test, you can do this in just about any lab (even if it’s not very nice).
- Make your own VSEPR activity: Believe it or not, your students can figure out how VSEPR works on their own. Check it out!
- Intermolecular forces lab: What’s the intermolecular force? Have your students find out in real-time!
Moles and stoichiometry:
- Moles of chalk lab (general chemistry)(honors chemistry): How many moles of calcium carbonate does it take to write your name? Find out here! (Do you want to read this in Norwegian? Click here. Seriously.)
- Stoichiometry Lab: It’s safe, it’s fun, and it’s inexpensive. Best of all, it’s fun to do!
- Limiting Reagent Lab: It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s fun. What else could you want?
Reactions and synthesis:
- Product formation lab: Students use available materials and their ingenuity to isolate the ionic compound of their choice via double displacement reaction.
- Identifying unknowns lab: This lab allows students to identify unknown compounds using the results of precipitation reactions.
- Unknowns with precipitation and spectroscopy lab: This is similar to the above lab, except that students are allowed to also use the flame test to help them in their identification task. Great for building connections between topics.
- Fixing a big mess lab (purifying contaminated lead nitrate): The classic lead nitrate + potassium iodide lab is fun, but what happens when students dispose of excess potassium iodide by putting it into the lead nitrate bottle? Based on a true story.
- Six types of reaction lab: This lab is in my 24 Lessons That Rocked the World book, but the link here is to a homeschooling teacher who adapted it for her own students. I think you’ll find her changes to be enlightening, which is why I include the link.
Solutions chemistry (includes acids and bases):
- Dilutions lab (general chemistry): Some hands-on dilution practice for your general chemistry students. Note: While this lab uses HCl as a reagent, you can get the same effect using less dangerous compounds.
- Dilutions lab (honors chemistry): A dilutions lab for the honors class in your life. The trick here is that of serial dilutions, but don’t give away the secret just yet!
- Intermolecular Forces Lab: Let’s see if your students can tell the difference between a hydrogen bond and a James Bond.
- Solubility product constant determination lab: Yes, your students can experimentally find the solubility product constant for calcium hydroxide! (Honors version of this lab)
- Indicator lab: We’ve all seen red cabbage made into an indicator. Here’s a question for you: Will other vegetables work, too? (Spoiler: Yes).
- Making Medieval Messes Lab: Can indicators be used to identify acids and bases? Will the townsfolk burn you at the stake? Find out here.
- Exploding Balloon Demo Lab: Is this a gas laws lab? Is it a phase change lab? Your students have to decide!
- The Incredible Shrinking Bottle Lab: This Boyle’s Law lab is based on a true story having to do with a delicious carbonated beverage and a vacation I took to Colorado.
- Kinetic Molecular Theory Lab: Our old friend, the kinetic molecular theory of gases, is up to its old tricks.
Thermodynamics and kinetics:
- Heating Curve and Calorimetry Lab: Let’s go for it!
- Popcorn Kinetics Lab: You’ll definitely want to wear goggles for this one!
- Spontaneity Lab: Our old friend thermodynamics strikes again!
- Heat of Reaction Lab: An explanation – though the purpose of this lab experiment is to find the heat of reaction of for the reaction of silver nitrate and lead chloride, the real lesson is that sometimes, despite your best efforts, good data are hard to find.
- Silly Discovery labs: For those of you who like to have a recurring fun activity in your class while maintaining educational rigor.
- Alloy Computer Project: Pretty much every metal we work with on a daily basis is an alloy. Let’s teach our students about some of our wonderful alloy friends!
- Defend your position: If you’d like to see how your students attack a chemistry problem that’s a little more interesting than one you’ll find in your textbook, have a look.
- Snow globe lab: An art project that manages to celebrate the winter season while exploring solubility.
- Oil spill lab: We’ve had an accident and now there’s oil everywhere. Can your students keep the environment clean and happy?
- DNA Extraction Lab: If your students have DNA inside of them, and I assume they do, they’ll be interested in seeing what it looks like. The bad news: It’s not DNA extracted from your students – it’s onion DNA.