Stir Stations

Grant Applicant
Jason Flesock
Grant Co-applicants
None
School Site
North Tahoe High School
Grant Category
Mathematics & Science
Grant Date
2020
Description (10 points)

The number of tools available for students to collect data in a Chemistry classroom can be overwhelming. When we think of a classic chemistry classroom, we always think of standard equipment: Beakers, Flasks, Bunsen Burners and more. What we don’t think about are the tools that, while they seem simple, have increible practical applications in the chemistry lab

 

Several years ago, the state of California adopted new science standards, known as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These standards created a monumental shift in how science instruction was to take place in the classroom. Rather than traditional classroom standards, NGSS is based on teaching in a three dimensional format, linking together content standards with Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts that go across different science courses. With these standards comes an emphasis on Scientific Inquiry, where students are to challenge their misconceptions and to derive meaning about scientific concepts through data collection and analysis. 

 

In Chemistry, for example, these standards have led to an added emphasis on the study of Energy. In Chemistry, we primarily study changes in energy in physical processes (like dissolving something or melting something) and chemical processes (like a chemical reaction). We do this using an experimental technique known as Calorimetry. In Calorimetry, we do the process in an insulated container, using water as a medium. We measure temperature changes in the water to determine what energy changes took place in the original process. An essential experimental step is to mix the contents to the container, to ensure that the energy changes are distributed evenly. We currently use glass stir rods to do this, but they do not do a great job mixing the solutions evenly. Mixing solutions is not limited to just calorimetry -- we also mix often to dissolve solids in water for chemical use, mix acid/base mixtures in titration studies and much more. 

 

It is with the support of an Excellence in Education Grant that we plan to purchase 8 stir stations. Stir Stations are essentially magnetic plates that plug into an outlet. We place the reaction container directly on the Stir Station plate, and put a magnetic stir bar (which looks like a pill) in the solution. When the Stir Station plate is on, the pill begins to spin rapidly, evenly mixing the solution. As I mentioned earlier, mixing solutions is a standard experimental step in many chemistry procedures (calorimetry, titration, solution development, etc).. Stir Stations are often a standard piece of equipment in most chemistry classroom, but are often built into the hot plate units. Of all of our hot plates, only 2 have the ability to both heat AND stir. Rather than replace all of our hot plates, these stir stations would be added to our equipment inventory and be used across a number of different procedures that we do in Chemistry and AP Chemistry. 

 

Benefits of Program (10 points)

One thing that we pride ourselves on, as a department at North Tahoe High School, is how we integrate experimentation into our instruction. If you were to walk into any science classroom at NTHS, you would see students as active scientists, collaborating and making meaning of scientific concepts through data collection and analysis. We have successfully embedded all NGSS standards and practices into our classrooms, and we strive to always use modern technologies to make these concepts more accessible than ever before.

 

Through the support of the Excellence in Education Foundation, we have been able to enhance our science laboratories with a number of tools that have made the experimental process for students better than ever before. As I mentioned earlier, Stir Stations would aid in a number of different experimental procedures for all Chemistry and AP Chemistry students. Here is a description of the Stir Stations from the Vernier website:

The Stir Station efficiently handles beakers and other containers as small as 50 mL and as large as one liter (800 mL practical capacity). It works efficiently with beakers with a wide range of sizes and shapes of magnetic stirring bars.

  • Uses a closed-loop speed control, thus making it easier to fine tune its stirring speed (50–1250 RPM).
  • The stirring platform is lit with three cool, white LEDs. The LEDs are positioned beneath the stirring platform to provide excellent lighting of a glass container of liquid.
  • Includes a removable 18″ ring stand post conveniently positioned and affixed to the stirrer base, at a distance that will easily accommodate most buret or utility clamps.
  • Runs on either AC power (adapter included) or four C batteries (not included).
  • Is sufficiently robust to operate most common-sized magnetic stirring bars or a Vernier Microstirrer.
  • Has a chemical-resistant plastic stirring plate.
Success of Program (10 points)

This equipment greatly enhances the current tools we have in place for any procedure that includes mixing. Currently we use glass stir rods for mixing, but these can be troublesome more many reasons. While cheap, they are often the most broken item in a chemistry lab. They also do not allow you to work in tight places, such as mixing in smaller container or flasks. They also do not circulate hot and cold areas well in Calorimetric studies, where the tiniest variation in temperature can have great impacts on the outcome of an experiment.

 

Over the course of a standard year in chemistry, we do a LOT of experiments. Specifically for Calorimetry, we have a total of 5 different procedures where we would use Stir Stations for even temperature distribution. We also do several titration procedures and kinetics procedures where Stir Stations would be used for reagent mixing. 

 

Simply put, Stir Stations would be considered a standard piece of lab equipment in a Chemistry classroom and we would love to make sure our students have the best tools available to facilitate experimental processes that produce reliable data.

 

Implementation (10 points)

With this spring grant cycle, we hope to purchase these new tools at the start of the 2020-2021 school year and to integrate them into classes the same year. Most of our early experiments are focused on Calorimetry, so we would be using them within the first few weeks of the school year and over the course of the entire year for procedures in both AP Chemistry and Chemistry.

Can you share this grant with your grade level or subject team?

While more standard for a Chemistry classroom, Stir Stations do have use for some Biology and AP Biology experiments involving reagent mixing. These Stir Stations would be stored in our Chemical Prep Room and be made available to any teacher in our department that would need to use them. 

 

Sustainability
This project is fully sustainable and durable. Vernier equipment is notoriously durable and designed for student use in secondary schools. They have amazing customer service for any equipment issues. We are also well equipped from a teacher training side of things to successfully integrate this equipment. We would not need additional EEF funds for this program.
Amount Funded
$1179.00
Individual Budget Items(s)
$1001 - Stir Stations
Shipping
$34.44
$72.58
Other funding sources

We currently do not have other funding sources for a purchase like this. Current budget funding through Measure A and Classroom-Use Funds, are primarily reserved for maintaining chemical inventories, biological consumables and replacing broken or used scientific equipment. Additionally, with expected tightening of budgets due to the school closures during 2019-2020 school year, funding will be more limited going forward.

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Notes

Vernier produces some of the highest quality science equipment on the market for today's science classrooms. They are the most durable manufacturer I have seen compared to other vendors.