Education International, Vol. 2, Issue 1, 6-13, Published in August
VISUALIZING THE CHEMICAL BOND
Zafra M. Lerman
for Science Education and Science Communication,
Columbia College Chicago, 600 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois
E-Mail: [email protected]
dictionaries define visualizing as "forming a mental image
or vision of something" (1).
In chemistry, visualization is extremely important; we are dealing
with atoms and molecules which cannot be seen with the naked eye:
we can only visualize them. Over the centuries, different models
were produced to help scientists and the general public visualize
the past few years, when we talk about chemical visualization, we
typically mean computer models. Although this type of visualization
is extremely important, we must remember that different people visualize
with different models -- just as we accept the realization that
different people learn in different ways (Multiple Intelligences).
OF THE TEXT:
of the main global problems that still exists in attracting students
to study chemistry is that many teachers still do not take into
account the different styles of learning which different students
have, such as the "Multiple Intelligences," by Howard
Gardner of Harvard University (2).
"visualization" has become a buzzword, in both science
However, what is typically meant by "visualization" is
a computer image, which is all-too-often produced by the instructor.
What is significant in the method developed by the Science Institute
at Columbia College is that such visualizations are not produced
by the instructor, but the students themselves produce the videos,
DVDs, CD-ROMS, or other computer models. There is no better way
of learning than by "doing it by yourself." It is important
to understand that the accuracy of science is paramount in this
approach, and is never sacrificed (3) (4).
word "visualize" is defined as "To form a mental
image or vision of; picture in the mind". Joe Nelson, a student
at Columbia College, created the following artwork to illustrate
the dictionary definition of visualization, as well as the process
of visualizing a chemical bond in the mind:
Working for the past twenty years with university students who are
non-science majors, many of them future communicators that will
shape our future (7), it is our experience that most have already
developed hostilities and resentment toward science before they
enter college. For the past twelve years we are working with teachers
and students from the Chicago Public Schools (the third largest
school district in the U.S.). These experiences have made it obvious
that new ways of teaching and assessing students must be developed
in order to make science understandable to everybody regardless
of their gender, race, or economic and cultural backgrounds (5).
world's population is growing exponentially, and in October 2000
it has passed the 6,000,000,000 mark - as can be seen in the following
must develop methods to make science accessible to all the world
population in order to avoid a class society divided -- not by royalty
-- but by knowledge of science.
order to avoid getting into this situation, we developed methods
of teaching science that incorporate art, music, dance, drama, and
cultural backgrounds (6). In the Science Institute at Columbia College,
we do not practice what is termed "chalk and talk" teaching.
Students in the Science Institute visualize the chemical bond in
whatever way they can best understand it, using their individual
intelligences and the media of their choice.
Once the students devise the way to best visualize the chemical
bond and present it to the class, experience shows that they retain
the information longer (as much as fifteen years later when we followed
group of students majoring in theater joined together to write and
act out an original dramatic presentation of "Sodium and Chlorine:
A Love Story", presented as a mock Shakespearean tragedy, for
their chemistry class project. One of these students has become
a famous actor; when the author went to see him backstage at a performance,this
former student stated that he had forgotten many things he learned
in school, but he vividly recalled the ionic bond, the Periodic
Table, and other concepts from his chemistry class almost fifteen
years earlier, because he had used theater to visualize these concepts.
Columbia student created an entertaining multimedia project titled
"The Amazing Atom" to visualize the ionic bond of sodium
and chlorine, and to illustrate different models of the atom.
The Science Institute also works with children in
the informal setting of a dance studio.
These children learn basic science and then show their understanding
of the concepts through dance. The following pictures show how these
children danced to demonstrate the ionic bond in the formation of
method has also been employed in workshops conducted by the Science
Institute to enhance the teaching skills of Chicago Public School
teachers. These teachers create their own projects to communicate
their understanding of scientific concepts covered in the workshops,
as well as practice this method in their own classrooms. A group
of teachers created "The Element Connection" as a parody
of "The Love Connection" television show.
This creative theatrical presentation involved sending contestant
Oxygen on dates with Helium (whom she found "too flighty"),
Carbon (who had "too much energy -- he wanted to bond with
anyone!") and finally with Iron, with whom Oxygen established
a successful bond (it turned out they were "a little rusty
effectiveness of employing these methods in Chicago Public School
classes can be seen by the excellent (and scientifically accurate)
projects created by children, such as this artwork made by a seventh
Public Schools teachers who participate in Science Institute workshops
and employ these methods in their classes have reported that seventh
and eighth grade children (who previously would "never come
close to the chemistry lab") now prefer to stay after school
in chemistry clubs, rather than attending gym class. Many of these
students have chosen to attend high schools which specialize in
science and mathematics -- which never happened before in these
teachers' experience. These graphs show the remarkable increase
of teacher's classroom practices after the workshops in a (a) conducting
science experiment daily or almost every day and (b) discussing
with their students science careers weekly, compared to practices
before the workshop and compared to national averages.
methods have proven particularly effective at what our experience
demonstrates are the crucial ages: the fifth grade (before children
enter middle school), and the eighth grade (before children enter
high school). This graph represents the achievement of students
of teachers who attended our workshops, compared to those of students
in the same school whose teachers did not attend our workshops.
Thanks to the National Science Foundation for support of this work
through grants ESI-9619141; ESI-9253266; USE-9150524; and TPE-8955128.
"Sodium and Chlorine: A Love Story" was created and performed
by Jackie Fisher, Debbie Jones,Roxanne Rogers, Bogwi Sithole, Brian
Shaw, and Lori Watson.
"The Amazing Atom" was created by Peter Wikof.
"The Element Connection" was created and performed by
Gloria McDaniel, Muriel Moseberry, and Joy Ward.
The "Periodic Table" dance was choreographed by Heidi
Baumann Renteria, and performed by dancers from The Stairway of
the Stars dance studio.
Thanks to Joe Nelson for his artwork illustrating various aspects
of science visualization.
Thanks also to Martha Stefan for HTML Programming, and to Jeffrey
S. Wade for his photography of live performances.
(1) Funk & Wagnalls New International Dictionary of the English
Language. J.G. Ferguson Publishing Co. (1993).
(2) Gardner, H.: Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice.
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. (1993).
(3) Kostecka, K. S., Lerman, Z. M., and Angelos, S. A.: Use of Gas
Chromatography/Mass Spectroscopy in Non-Science Major Course Laboratory
Experiments. J. Chem. Ed., 73 (6), 565-566, 1996.
(4) Lerman, Z.: Chemistry for Art and Communication Students: J.
Chem. Ed., 63, 142, 1986.
(5) Lerman, Z. M.: "Chemistry Without Tears: Teaching Chemistry
Through Music, Drama, Art and Sports" in Science Learning in
the Informal Setting Symposium Proceedings, P. Heltne and L. Marquardt,
editors: The Chicago Academy of Sciences (Chicago: 1988).
(6) Lerman, Z. M.: "Chemistry in Dance, Drawing, Drama and
Daily Life" in 1989 ICASE YEARBOOK, Proceedings of the ICASE
World Conference: CONASTA 37 on Science Education and the Quality
of Life, B. Honeyman, editor: ASTA and ICASE (Canberra,Australia:
(7) Lerman, Z. M.: "Chemistry for the People Who Will Shape
Our Future." Chemical Education Journal (CEJ), Vol. 4, No.
1 (2000). http://chem.sci.utsunomiya-u.ac.jp/v4n1/lerman/lerman.html#1