Best of the Week 2019-2020: Excellence in College Prep


Sophomores in Mrs. Erin Schilf's Honors Chemistry course have already participated in two labs within their first four days of school, learning proper lab safety practices, using 90% of the chemistry lab equipment for the first time and learning how to handle certain chemicals, such as acids. In particular, students have been learning how to differentiate between physical and chemical changes. As shown above, students burned magnesium ribbon which produces a bright white light and intense heat. This magnesium additionally reacted with the oxygen found in the air in order to produce magnesium oxide. The students subsequently tested if magnesium and magnesium oxide react with acid similarly to determine if the initial and final substances are different. When students noticed that the magnesium reacted with an acid and the magnesium oxide did not, they realized that a chemical change occurred, forming new substances.

In addition to handling multiple steps within their lab procedures and working through tasks unfamiliar to them, students were paired up to learn how to collaborate in a lab setting while working with new materials. "Lab time at the high school level is crucial in order for students to explore and conduct investigations. Lab work plays on a student's curiosity and also allows for them to experience failures and undergo multiple trials in order to produce the result they're looking for," says Science teacher Mrs. Schilf.

Mrs. Schilf acknowledges that many colleges and universities require students to take chemistry courses that typically include six hours of lab time per week. Majors such as nuclear science, engineering, environmental science, physical therapy, pharmaceutical science, meteorology, materials science and forensics all require students to take chemistry. "For our students to take chemistry courses now at St. Ed's, coupled with physics, math and data analytics, they can truly succeed at the college level," says Mrs. Schilf. "Taking an interest in chemistry now could inspire our students to potentially develop a new material to reduce concussion rates, find a substitute for cartilage, extend the life of our planet by reducing our carbon footprint, or invent tools for meteorologists to better predict hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. The possibilities are endless and the lab time experienced at this point in our students' lives will hopefully be a catalyst for the amazing careers they can pursue that are all rooted in chemistry."