Gena Marsh and her student Jovan have been spending their Time4Chem doing extra chemistry during lunch breaks, even synthesising solvents for school lessons.
I work in an international school in Italy, teaching IB Diploma Chemistry. Because of the city I live in there are always new students with different backgrounds and experiences in chemistry.
One of these students is Jovan – he joined our school a year and a half ago from Belgrade in Serbia. His theoretical chemistry knowledge is superb, but his knowledge of practical techniques had been severely limited. Having few friends and little initial inclination to socialise (my Italian students are loud!) he spent a lot of time in my classroom and it became clear that we have a shared love of chemistry in all of its aspects – from the mundane to the arcane!
So during lunchtimes and after school we have spent time developing his practical skills in chemistry and also introducing him to some of the other students in his year group with similar interests. Over the last 18 months his abilities have improved greatly.
Recently, in lessons, we have started organic chemistry and, while I have access to some solvents, over the years before I arrived the stocks were allowed to run out or were disposed of, either due to health and safety rules or lack of use.
This state of affairs has been in parts frustrating and heart-breaking, as some of the best reactions are denied to us. However, on one such occasion Jovan stepped up and offered to synthesise the missing solvent for a simple organic practical. As most of you will be aware, the synthesis of cyclohexanone is a two-step process: it took Jovan about 175 minutes to produce about 7 cm3 of it, but it allowed us to compare it with cyclohexane and cyclohexene, enabling my students to observe the differences in reactivity.
It was a great chance to see that the time he has spent in the lab has been put to good use and along the way he has made friends too. For example, many of my other students seek him out at lunchtimes when they need more help.
For Jovan, he enjoys being in the chemistry lab and I think he appreciated having someone trust him to do this reaction with minimal supervision. When I asked, his response was "but I enjoyed the synthesis"!
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