Reveal organic chemistry's fun side with a lesson on ingredients
I love organic chemistry - not just for the aromas of orange, ylang-ylang and pineapple that linger for hours in the lab after an esters experiment, but because it is so relevant to our daily lives. Organic chemistry is the study of medicines, hormones, vitamins, flavourings, perfumes and nutrition. It is the foundation for all the biological sciences, because all living things are made up of organic chemicals.
Sadly, not all students share this view. Some see organic chemistry as abstract and irrelevant: a subject with confusing drawings, complicated reaction mechanisms and bewildering chemical names (such as 2-methyl-3-buten-2-ol).
There is also a common misconception that organic chemistry has no connection to everyday life. I saw an opportunity to correct this among my students, so I planned a lesson called "Ingredients". This is how it works.
First, I challenge students to read the ingredients list on a bottle of moisturiser with perfect pronunciation. Nobody can do it. Then I emphasise that organic compounds are all around us - including in our food.
Next, in groups of four, students brainstorm some of the all-natural ingredients of the various fruits I have placed on their desks, including bananas, pineapples, blueberries and lemons. They struggle at first, but within a few minutes each group has jotted down dozens of ingredients with the help of their biology books and the internet.
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