Cooking with chemistry in the kitchen

Carbon dioxide production in everyday life, especially the kitchen. &mdash;  <i>videographer: Hamish McLellan</i>

During lock down, many teachers have had to meet the challenge of delivering learning to students without access to equipment they’d usually be able to use. Science teacher Hamish McLellan explains how he has encouraged students to practice their chemistry skills at home.

What are the challenges for teaching science during lock down?

Not having access to basic chemicals or equipment for demonstrations has been a little frustrating. Also, Science is about making connections; sometimes between things that don’t necessarily seem to be connected. That’s hard to do with bite-sized lessons.

What are the advantages?

One has to be a bit imaginative about how things are done. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as you sometimes come up with more elegant solutions than you would have if there was no such limitation. Necessity is the mother of invention, and all that.

Also, using Screencastify for little videos, you have to be pretty succinct. There is a 5 minute limit, so you need to shut up and get to the point. That’s not always bad thing.

How have your adapted your teaching and learning program to cater to students during the lock down?

Basically it’s about teaching asynchronously, in other words each student works at their own pace. I don’t teach during meeting times, just answer questions, like a tutorial. It’s like a flipped classroom; I try to give students the tools they need to make progress at their own pace and support them as needed.

Mr McLellan uses his website to give students experiments they can do around home — Duncan McKinlay

What are you missing the most about teaching “face to face”?

A number of students are very shy about using their mics and cameras. You lose a lot of the rich discussion and idea development. I think remote teaching can be great for students who can overcome the self-consciousness and really engage in interacting online.

Is baking for their parents a good way for students to put science into practice?

Heck, yeah. There is a little science in almost everything we do; baking, gardening, cleaning, building, exercising, eating,​(not to mention hygiene and pandemic management.) Being open to seeing the reasons for things happening… testing, asking questions… that’s what we want people to be able to do in an informed society, I think. Don’t just follow instructions, be aware of what you are doing when you are adding this, or mixing that. Why that temperature? Why baking soda, not powder? There is a reason for everything. That’s science.

By Duncan McKinlay