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April 1, 2011
by: Peter Woods

IDEAS Chemistry

If the purpose of chemistry is to better understand the materials that make up our world and how they interact, then why not focus on those materials that surround us? While chemicals like Sulfuric Acid and Sodium Hydroxide might present excellent materials to work with in the lab, the average Joe isn't going to be working with them on a day to day basis. Milk and orange juice, on the other hand, can be found in our own kitchens. So why not start with these acids and bases and then work towards those other chemicals we almost never see?

In IDEAS Academy's chemistry class, we begin with the world that immediately surrounds us, develop questions, and then answer them through a solid and thorough examination of the issue, both in hands on experiments in the lab and research into previous studies from other scientists. A unit on acids and bases may start with a question as simple as "Why does milk taste awful when I drink it after having orange juice?" From here, students will enter the lab, noting different reactions (and non-reactions) between various drinks found in his or her fridge. At this point, students will develop a hypothesis and discuss it with their class mates, then hit the books in order to see what other theories scientists have developed.

At this point, once a foundation of knowledge has been created through lab research and theoretical study (in that order), students approach those materials that we see only in the lab with a deep understanding of what is actually going on. The knowledge gained through this study then applies itself to a host of other questions, seen on a day-to-day basis for everyone and also those going into a number of different careers.

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