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«La Chimie en Couleurs»: Socially Relevant & Original Research in Chemistry in High Schools Using Modest Resources

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Teaching chemistry at high school level has the potential of playing a major role for the development of our society, in particular, to form future leaders in chemistry who will address social challenges such as the need for better healthcare, improved agricultural techniques and more efficient use of energy resources. In general, high school chemistry teaching programs tend to illustrate the great historic discoveries and glorious past of chemical research. It is hoped that this historical perspective will help to provide students with the basic understanding necessary for the development of the chemistry of tomorrow. Unfortunately, in general, the emphasis on established chemical research and on the reassuringly solid foundations of the field is ubiquitous, not only in the theoretical classes, but also in more practical aspects of teaching, such as in the 'maturity projects' of students: These small, often laboratory-oriented 'research projects' are generally limited to reproducing the scientific literature – often printed in black & white – and/or are adding minor modifications to established scientific protocols, instead of exploring the colourful world of current scientific discoveries and the excitement of pushing back the boundaries of knowledge. Practicing innovative and original research with chemistry students is therefore a challenge for the mentor of any 'maturity project'. Here, we describe the implementation of a practical program – nicknamed 'La Chimie en Couleurs' – for carrying out original research in chemistry, making science lively, colourful and vivid to students. Science that has not already been done by others before, but that students can pursue themselves and that is totally new and original. The program is taught during high-school courses and carried out by students, using inexpensive equipment, easily accessible and non-toxic chemicals and simple chemical concepts. Part of the research work was presented by students at the Swiss Chemical Society Fall Meeting and won a poster prize in the inorganic chemistry runner up category (2016). The 'La Chimie en Couleurs' program presented here shows that up-to-date and socially-relevant chemistry (not just historically relevant chemistry!) can be taught to teenagers in a creative way through the implementation of inexpensive, albeit serious, scientific research at high school level.
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Keywords: COMBINATORIAL CHEMISTRY; EDUCATION; INDICATOR DISPLACEMENT ASSAYS; INORGANIC CHEMISTRY; RESEARCH

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Gymnase français de Bienne, Rue du Débarcadère 8, CH-2508 Bienne;, Email: [email protected] 2: University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 50/70, CH-4056 Basel

Publication date: August 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • International Journal for Chemistry and Official Membership Journal of the Swiss Chemical Society (SCS) and its Divisions

    CHIMIA, a scientific journal for chemistry in the broadest sense, is published 10 times a year and covers the interests of a wide and diverse readership. Contributions from all fields of chemistry and related areas are considered for publication in the form of Review Articles and Notes. A characteristic feature of CHIMIA are the thematic issues, each devoted to an area of great current significance.

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