Using baking to get kids more interested in Chemistry last semester seemed almost like cheating at the authenticity game. It was an enormous effort to obtain materials, plan for choice, and design a structure the genuinely incorporated content… but students were absolutely engaged in scientific thinking. What happens when their experimental design choices must be limited for safety’s sake?

How might we encourage maximum creative thinking within the constraints of an experimental technique?

The final unit of the semester focuses on acids & bases, colorful indicators, and ends with an iodometric titration to determine the concentration of Vitamin C in an independent variable of their choosing. In previous years, students have examined the impact of storage methods on strawberries, aging in oranges, variety in citrus, cost in supplements… and while this final project has always resulted in variation, over half of the groups don’t plan or aren’t curious and wind up testing the trusty fall-back variable: brands of OJ.

I’m tired of orange juice. Their interest is low and their subsequent reports are repetitive.

I’ve opened both the new semester and this new unit encouraging wild brainstorming and question design. I want to carry this over into the final project. Here’s hoping a little (or a lot of) thoughtful planning can present authentic information on nutrition and health in a way that promotes more curiosity and variation.