The “Discovery of the Century” Chemistry Student Project

Well-Trained Mind AcademyScience

drawing of soap

Hi! I’m Dr. Anna Eaton, and I’m a science instructor at the Well-Trained Mind Academy.

When people think about their high school chemistry course, many remember a subject that was elusive, difficult, or even boring. As a scientist-teacher, my goal is to make chemistry engaging, exciting, stimulating, and fun! Chemistry is an amazing subject that lets students practice critical thinking and problem-solving skills while learning and understanding real-world phenomena. I like to think of a chemistry course as an amazing life opportunity.

This is why I developed a performance-product-assessment project for my students. Although we take multiple-choice tests, practice chemistry problems, and write short answers, I wanted to find an assessment option that allowed students a chance to apply and show off their other outside interests in the field of chemistry.  

Performance-Product-Assessment Project

In the “Discovery of the Century Project,” my students were to act like they discovered an important chemistry advancement. Choosing from one of three discoveries discussed in Chapter 7 of our textbook Conceptual Chemistry by John Suchoki, the students created an exciting advertisement announcing their discovery to the world. Students chose to display their advertisements either as a video, a voice recording, or a pamphlet/PowerPoint.

By designing this performance-product-assessment, students were encouraged to learn the science of how soap works, how water is purified, or how water is softened in a playful and engaging way. Pedagogical research has shown how play encourages critical thinking and long-term retention. In designing their advertisements, students also worked through the scientific method. They had to identify the problem being solved by their product, design a method for their advertisement, carry that method out, analyze their results, refine their projects, and then share their advertisement with others.  

Chemistry Project Spotlight

Khan Winter, one of my chemistry students, created a video about the miraculous abilities of soap (more important than ever these days)! Khan’s work exemplifies the light-hearted nature of the project while also demonstrating his mastery of the chemical concept explored. Khan did an excellent job explaining the science behind soap, and he got to do it using one of his favorite mediums, stop-motion animation.

Khan says, “I’ve loved stop-motion-animation for a long, long time. It’s almost natural for me to try to use it in school projects, especially ones that require a video. I’ve done stop-motion-animation videos with topics ranging from the Mayans to Star Wars, with different materials like LEGOs, clay, and now drawing. The process for drawing animations is actually pretty simple. I’m lucky enough to have an iPad with a pencil, and the built-in Notes app lets me draw. So I screen-recorded myself drawing each piece, threw it in my video editor, recorded myself talking over it, and turned it in!”

Watch for yourself!

Science is an amazing field, one that truly impacts our day-to-day lives. The scientific method is not some obscure process that occurs in the dark corners of labs, but rather a process with which every person engages on a regular basis to solve problems and create solutions. By utilizing the scientific process in a performance-product-assessment project, my students were able to practice real-life skills, learn chemistry, and understand more about how their world works.