Bond with James

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Ward's Science Water Quality Kit: Impacts of Key Environmental Factors

This post is sponsored by Ward's Science

 I've taught chemistry for 15+ years. In the past, I thought referencing examples of chemical applications in the real world as I was explaining a topic was sufficient. Additionally, I focused on the chemistry standards but realized that I wasn't supporting the vertical alignment of the science courses. For example, I might have referenced iron rusting outside as an example of a chemical change and set up a lab where students completed several independent chemical change experiments. However, I realized this was very surface level.   

After obtaining my Master's degree in chemistry, I realized that I could teach chemistry through an interdisciplinary environmental approach. For example, I could engagingly introduce Matter through a storyline connected to the atmosphere (e.g., the air we breathe). An essential question I could pose to my students might be: "Why is there so much talk about air quality?" Of course, some students might reply that we need to breathe. However, do they understand, and can they link chemistry and the environment?

Recently, my campus had an issue with lead in the school water supply. There was a period when students joked about which water fountain had more lead. Of course, the situation was addressed and fixed. Yet, I started brainstorming ways to incorporate environmental issues involving water quality into my lessons.  

Water bottle station test using the Waterworks Bacteria Check Test Bottle

I decided not to reinvent the wheel and looked up water quality activities online. I came across the Water Quality Kit (A): Impacts of Key Environmental Factors by Ward's Science. There was another version, but this particular kit included several topics right up my alley (as I have a specific interest in microbiology). Some of the topics included are:

  • The effect of temperature on pH
  • The effect of watercolor and particle size on turbidity
  • The effect of temperature on coliform growth
  • Impacts of water quality on living things, including microbes and macroinvertebrates

Some of the supplies included in the kit.

The Water Quality Kit (A) was created and aligned to the NGSS Science Olympiad events. Texas doesn't follow the NGSS standards, but the kit is meant as a resource to help prepare students for the Olympiad. Again, I initially only cared about a resource to help me with the implementation of ideas. The Ward's Science Water Quality Kit (A) contains three multipart activities that students may be completed in any order, which helps when planning lessons. Many activities can be done in a single period, with a few requiring 2-3 days to complete. Furthermore, the activities include opportunities for the students to demonstrate their graphing and other fundamental experimental skills (e.g., setting experimental controls, developing hypotheses, etc.).

As far as materials go, the kit comes with most of the items needed to complete the activities. However, there are a few items that you will have to purchase, and these include: 

  • an incubator or heat lamp
  • spectrophotometer (additional supplies to read absorbance)
  • consumables for pH testing
  • turbidity tube
  • container to hold 1 liter of solution

Unfortunately, I did not have access to a spectrophotometer - which is something I am planning on purchasing in the future for other content-related applications. I googled "How to create a turbidity tube" and created one with materials that I had. 


How can I tie the experiments in Ward's Science Water Quality Kit (A) to chemistry standards? In February 2021, Winter Storm Uri caused record low temperatures and snowfall in many parts of the United States. Unfortunately, millions of Texas went days or weeks without electricity or water. Multiple cities issued water boiling notices. I used the winter storm experience to introduce students to the water treatment process. Several of the hands-on activities in Ward's Science kit apply to the treatment process (e.g., turbidity, the chlorination step, etc.). Furthermore, you could extend the lesson to other activities, such as checking nitrate or phosphate levels. 

Unfortunately, I had to demo this for students this year (remote learning 20-21). However, I have the supplies and student pages. Hopefully, we will return to in-person learning next year, and students will have the opportunity to experience the activity. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

A Few Devices I've Used During Remote Learning

In the video above, I switch between using the integrated software with external devices such as the Logitech HD Webcam C270 and Blue Microphones Snowball iCE.  Students immediately noticed the difference in quality between the two video and audio methods. According to the students, I no longer sounded like a "robot" but a "professional podcaster." Audio quality is and continues to be important in the remote setting, especially for my students who are non-native English speakers. Additionally, the Zoom call's auto-captioning function provides a more thorough closed captioning experience using the Blue Microphone Snowball iCE compared to the internal microphone. Some of my students sometimes have difficulty with their audio, and the only way they have access to the lesson is through closed captioning. Therefore, I need a microphone that can effectively capture and convey a high voice quality to the students.   

The use of an external webcam, such as the Logitech HD C270, provides my students with a clearer image to view and connect with me personally. In the clip above, the integrated webcam quality is grainy and adjusts poorly to changes in lighting.  Students noticed the difference when I made the switch to the Logitech HD C270 webcam as they reminded me of a blemish on my skin πŸ˜…πŸ˜‚and mentioned that they appreciated being able to view a clearer image as I taught. While many of the students leave their cameras off during the Zoom call, I hope that the webcam's clearer image will allow students to feel comfortable approaching me when we return to in-person instruction. 

**While this is a sponsored blog post, I only take on projects that support student learning or my

ability to make instructional content accessible to students.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Density Lab (Acrylic Cylinders): Observe & Record Data!

This virtual lab focuses on observing and recording data from a density experiment. It is recommended that the individual rewind or pause the video to allow time to accurately and precisely record each measurement. When finished, calculate the density for each of the purple (acrylic) cylinders.

If you're a teacher using this in the classroom, you may want to create a Pre-Lab questionnaire. I normally have students create their own data tables. This lab is straightforward and is a great starting point for developing that particular skill. However, in case you're wondering, you could have students create something like this:

The purple cylinders are composed of acrylic. The true value provided with the activity set was given as 1.17 g/mL. If you Google the acrylic density, it is listed as 1.18 g/mL (or 1.18 g/cm^3).

I forgot to mention this in the video. Depending on your grade level and population of students, you should direct students to take the average of the values and use that to compare to the true value of acrylic. When creating a Mass vs. Volume graph, instruct students to draw a line of best fit. The graph will be a straight line. Of course, obtaining accurate and precise data from the video will be affected by various factors (e.g., human error πŸ˜‚πŸ€£). However, I recorded data and calculated the density by watching the video, and my measurements were fine. Moreover, you could use the video as an opportunity to discuss recording accurate and precise measurements (i.e., significant figures/digits).

I hope this helps you and your students while we navigate distance learning during this COVID-19 era.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Back to School with Distance Learning

An overview of my Canvas course setup begins at 1:32.

The school board pushed the start of the school year back by three weeks and we will start with a distance learning program. As of now, I know the board sent in a request to extend remote learning by an additional 4-weeks. However, I do not know what the current status of that request is. Given my experience with creating blended learning activities for my students, the shift to creating distance learning material wasn't too difficult. However, my main issue lies with particular teaching strategies that I regularly employed in a face-to-face format.

In the event that we do go back, my focus is not to decorate or fix up my classroom because we most likely will not go to a regular schedule that involves students moving around. However, I'll speak about this in another vlog. Also, I will be able to show more of my Canvas distance learning setup and/or answer any comments people have about this particular vlog.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Teaching at Title 1 Schools | A Week in the Life of a Teacher

This week's vlog includes a 7-minute teaching warm-up and transitions into my reflection of the week; as well as my feelings about working and teaching at title 1 schools. 

When I first started A Week in the Life of a Teacher vlogs (17-18), I filmed and incorporated teaching clips in my videos. I did this because there had not been, to my knowledge, another teacher vlogger that had (consistently) done so. I also wanted to use my vlogs to share ideas and also reflect on my own teaching. I've spent a majority of my career working with or teaching at title 1 schools and I wanted to see where I could develop to support all students.

However, teaching Pre-AP chemistry for the first time in 8 years combined with teaching at a Title 1 school and daily vlogging and editing for a weekly vlog release began to take its toll on me mentally and physically. Therefore, during the spring semester, I continued to record my lessons for self-reflection, but I didn't stress about editing hours of lessons for the A Week in the Life of a Teacher vlog.

This school year (18-19), I decided to scale back the amount of time I spent vlogging. For the most part, I record on a single day and reflect on the week or some topic that people have asked me about. I feel this schedule allows me to rest, relax, and not stress about additional work.

Although, I have made the decision to try and incorporate small segments of instruction from one lesson taught during my weekly vlog release. I this will allow me to support my original goals and provide a lens to anyone who is interested in teaching, especially at Title 1 schools.

For the record, just in case this needs to be stated, I do not believe Title 1 schools are terrible. There are multiple challenges that make teaching at a Title 1 school difficult. However, I enjoy working with the population of students that I serve and understand the commitment and dedication it takes to support them academically and emotionally.

Monday, August 20, 2018

First Week of School (2018-2019)

The Facebook post can't even describe how tired I was after my first week back to school. However, I had a great first week. 

You can check out a bit more through my 2018-2019 First Week of School vlog.