Energy, Balance, and Astrology

When was the last time that you were so enthralled that hours passed like minutes?

The Principal and Science Chair of Rockhurst High School allowed me to to observe an afternoon of chemistry classes this week. Michael Sullivan taught the same subject to three different classes (AP, Honors, and General) with such a variety of techniques that I lost count. It was equal parts push, wait, argue, understand, noise, silence, chaos and clarity. The pace was blinding. The energy was off the scale. The jokes, mostly from the students, did not stop. Correct answers were celebrated with desk pounding and wrong answers were acknowledged with forehead smacks. The young men came in small groups discussing local sports, NHS events, and Schrodinger’s cat. They left arguing the best titration techniques and the quickest way to determine if a reaction is endothermic or exothermic.

I was also captured this week by the concept and mechanics of Oxidation Reduction reactions. It is not an overstatement to say that every aspect of our lives is governed by the behavior of electrons. In many reactions, electrons stay with the atom that brought them, but in Redox reactions they jump ship, sometimes in droves. This flow creates electricity and this knowledge led to the invention of batteries and the field of Electrochemistry.

Unfortunately, the mechanics of balancing Redox reactions did not flow as easily as the concept, but my Libra nature would not rest until I mastered the 10-12 steps. I used Kahn Academy, two additional Chemistry textbooks, and even Chemistry Essentials for Dummies. At the end of the week, I could take apart molecules, describe the flow of electrons, add water or hydroxide as needed, and then finally put them all back together again.

Let the desk-pounding commence.