About the
Chem Connections Project

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As part of the National Science Foundation's Systematic Change Initiative in Chemistry, the ChemLinks Coalition and the Modular Chemistry Consortium have developed and tested topical modules for the first two years of the college chemistry curriculum. These 2-4-week modules start with relevant real-world questions and develop the chemistry needed to answer them. In the process, students model how chemistry is actually done and discover connections between chemistry and other sciences, technology, and society. In order to develop critical thinking skills as well as cover chemical content, modules feature student-centered active and collaborative classroom activities and inquiry-based laboratory and media projects, rather than relying primarily on traditional lectures and verification laboratories. This approach is based on research showing that students learn best when they build on past experience, relate what they are learning to things that are relevant to them, have direct "hands-on" experience, construct their own knowledge in collaboration with other students and faculty, and communicate their results effectively.

Over a hundred faculty from more than forty 2-year colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities in these two consortia have developed and tested a variety of modules dealing with chemistry and the environment, technology, and life processes. Through this broad base of testing and revision, our modules are adaptable to a variety of institutional settings. By offering options of varying depth, each module can be adapted for use in a variety of courses for non-science students, science and technology majors, and potential chemistry majors. Our goal is to provide scientific literacy, as well as technical competence, for all students. In short, we want students to learn as scientists learn; by doing chemistry in a rich, modern, investigative setting centered around core principles in chemistry.

Printed workbooks are available from W. W. Norton. The links below will take you to the media resources designed to accompany the printed workbooks.


 What Should We Do About Global Warming? 
 Groups of students analyze the historical data set of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons, and attempt to account for the increasing concentrations of these 'greenhouse gases' by finding their source and sink reactions. Students will then design an international global warming policy based on scientific data, but also taking into consideration environmental, social, political, and economic realities.
ISBN 0-393-15415-7

Blue Light

 Build a Better CD Player: How Can You Get Blue Light from a Solid? 
 This module challenges students to think about a materials design question, how to get light out of a solid. Light-emitting solids are essential for many high technology materials and products, including compact disk (CD) players. Students make use of the periodic table to propose color-specific emitting solids based on knowledge of periodic properties, bonding, electronic transitions, solid structures and the properties of light.
ISBN 0-393-15412-2


 Why Does the Ozone Hole Form? 
 Students learn about the structure of the atmosphere and the ozone layer, when the ozone hole is formed, and its current status. The oxygen chemistry that "naturally" makes and destroys ozone will be covered, along with the 2-step Cl-catalyzed cycle proposed in 1974 by Rowland and Molina. The unique Antarctic meteorology and heterogeneous chemistry complete the story. Emphasis is placed on using chemical kinetics in a real context by using rate concepts and calculations to answer relevant questions about ozone. The skill of learning to support or refute a scientific hypothesis with evidence is strongly emphasized throughout, as well as the interplay of experimental data and theoretical models.
ISBN 0-393-15413-0


 Would You Like Fries With That? The Fuss About Fats in Our Diet 
 Fat is an important nutrient in our diets, but dietary fat has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases. Students investigate the properties of fats and oils and relate them to their triglyceride structure. They gain experience with chemical notation, polarity, thermochemistry, intermolecular forces, bond strength, cis/trans isomerism, and basic organic nomenclature. Finally, looking at some of the fat substitutes on the market, they both justify their properties from a chemical perspective and debate their effectiveness as a part of the American diet.
ISBN 0-393-15411-4


 Computer Chip Thermochemistry: How Can We Create an Integrated Circuit from Sand? 
 The fabrication of integrated circuits on silicon-based semiconductors is used to introduce students to the rapidly growing industry of semiconductor processing. Enthalpy, entropy and Gibbs free energy are introduced sequentially as the various fabrication steps are considered.
ISBN 0-393-15410-6


 Water Treatment: How Can We Make our Water Safe to Drink? 
 This module is driven by the question, "How can we make our water safe to drink?" Students begin by learning about the hydrologic cycle and the various pathways by which dissolved substances get into a water supply. The process of dissolution is then examined in some detail, with a focus on learning about the nature of ionic and covalent substances and the factors that control their solubility in water.
ISBN 0-393-92646-x


 What's in a Star? 
 The only empirical information we have about stars comes from the light that reaches us. Students explore the nature of starlight in order to relate its color to blackbody radiation and temperature. They then analyze stellar spectra in terms of the electronic structure of atoms and ions.
ISBN 0-393-15414-9


 How Could Life Have Arisen on Earth? 
 Major events in the origin and evolution of life are examined from a chemical perspective, including the formation of the solar system, the first reproducing molecules, the evolution of metabolism, and the search for extra-terrestrial life.
ISBN 0-393-92436-X

Acid Rain
 Soil Equilibria: What Happens to Acid Rain? 
 What happens to the oxides of sulfur and nitrogen produced during combustion? Where do they go? How do they affect the environment? This module, for use in an analytical chemistry course, considers the consequences when soil equilibria are stressed. What chemical species are important in the soil system charge balance? How are changes in pH, solubility, and ion exchange inter-linked with ion distributions and concentrations? How does the chemical system shift and the ecosystem respond? Instead of many simple problems where individual equilibria are studied separately, students are asked to question and investigate facets of a more complex problem through laboratory measurements of model and natural systems, supplemented by case studies.
ISBN 0-393-15386-x
 How Can We Reduce Air Pollution from Automobiles? 
 Have you ever read all the labels in a gasoline station? What do they tell you about the properties of gasoline? This module studies how the composition of gasoline and the stoichiometry in an engine affect air quality.
ISBN 0-393-92438-6

 How Do We Get From Bonds to Bags, Bottles, and Backpacks? 
 This module is designed to help students learn about chemical bonding, polarity, intermolecular forces and the impact of chemical structure on the properties of materials by focusing on polymers. As they learn about the chemistry of polymers, they also learn how it overlaps with other disciplines and areas of life including materials science and recycling.
ISBN 0-393-92439-4

Copper Mine

 Should We Build a Copper Mine? 
 Copper - from where does it come and what does it cost? Does it matter how we produce it? What are the environmental consequences? In this second term general chemistry module students explore the science behind these questions and develop informed answers. Case teaching, collaborative laboratory work, and classroom group problems are used to teach redox reactions, acid/base reactions, solubility, and electrochemical equilibria. Teams of students perform their own analysis and hydro-metallurgical processing of an ore sample.
ISBN 0-393-92647-8

Instructor Manual

 A Guide to Teaching with Modules (200K pdf file) 
 Modules can be used in several ways in the classroom, depending on the instructor's preference. Some faculty may choose to use modules for their entire course, while others may use only one or two modules to add a relevant topic of current interest to their existing curriculum. The modular approach is flexible enough to accommodate a variety of teaching and learning environments. The Guide to Teaching with Modules and instructor manual for each module help instructors make these decisions.

Media Resources for the Workbooks | Module Descriptions | ChemLinks Coalition | Modular Chem Consortium

Copyright © 2004 by the trustees of Beloit College and the Regents of the University of California. These Modules have been developed under the direction of the ChemLinks Coalition, headed by Beloit College, and the ModularChem Consortium, headed by the University of California at Berkeley. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation grants No. DUE-9455918 and DUE-9455924. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation, Beloit College, or the Regents of the University of California.

Published through exclusive license with W. W. Norton.
What Should We Do About Global Warming? ISBN 0-393-15415-7
Build a Better CD Player: How Can You Get Blue Light from a Solid? ISBN 0-393-15412-2
Why Does the Ozone Hole Form? ISBN 0-393-15413-0
Would You Like Fries With That? The Fuss about Fats in Our Diet ISBN 0-393-15411-4
Computer Chip Thermochemistry: How Can We Create an Integrated Circuit from Sand? ISBN 0-393-15410-6
Water Treatment: How Can We Make Our Water Safe to Drink? ISBN 0-393-92646-x
What's in a Star? ISBN 0-393-15414-9
How Could LIfe Have Arisen on Earth? ISBN 0-393-92436-x
Soil Equilibria: What Happens to Acid Rain? ISBN 0-393-15386-x
How Can We Reduce Air Pollution from Automobiles? ISBN 0-393-92438-6
How Do We Get from Bonds to Bags, Bottles, and Backpacks? ISBN 0-393-92439-4
Should We Build a Copper Mine? ISBN 0-393-92647-8