AP Chem Teacher & Students Get An Early Start on Studies

Incoming juniors and seniors at Erie High transformed copper pennies into “silver” and “gold” in a chemistry lab Thursday before learning to use Bunsen burners by making s’mores.
The students, who are taking on advanced placement chemistry this coming school year, are getting a head start through a voluntary summer chemistry camp.
John Sexton, left, and Hunter Nelson, right, both rising juniors at Erie High School, gather materials for the day's lab Thursday morning. The two are participating in a four-day summer class designed to prepare students for the rigor of AP chemistry in the coming academic year.
“From what I’ve heard, AP chemistry is pretty hard,” said incoming junior Joe Milner, who’s also taking physics this year. “We need all the preparation we can get. This is getting my mind back into the groove of things.”
The camp, which ran for two hours a day, Monday through Thursday, was attended by about 20 students and created by science teacher Cheri Giammo.
Giammo, who’s going into her fourth year teaching AP chemistry, started the camp this summer so students could brush up on their chemistry concepts to prepare for the fast paced, rigorous curriculum.
One of the biggest challenges for students, she said, is learning to manage their time during labs. She included two labs in the summer program.
For the first, students analyzed aspirin tablets. For the penny lab, they boiled pennies with zinc and zinc sulfate, turning them silver by plating them with zinc. Then they turned some gold by heating them on a hot plate.
Giammo offered advice as they worked, including not looking directly into a boiling beaker, keeping paper away from the hot plates and cleaning equipment while they waited.
“See how you guys are going to have to multitask?,” she said. “Eighty-five minutes is not very long.”
The prep class also covers concepts that include mathematical conversions, balancing equations and identifying polyatomic ions. To keep it fun, Giammo said, she uses challenges like races and bingo and gives out prizes.
Many of the students who attended chemistry camp are going for an AP Capstone diploma— new to Erie this fall— and so are loading up on AP classes.
Capstone students take an AP seminar class as sophomores or juniors, followed by an AP research class. Students who earn scores of 3 or higher on the exams for those classes, as well as scoring 3 or higher on four other AP exams of their choosing, earn a Capstone diploma.
Students also said they chose AP chemistry because they want the college credit and like math and science.
Incoming junior Matthew Pastor said he’s taking AP chemistry to help him decide if he wants to pursue chemistry in college.
Plus, he said, “it’s a lot of fun.”
Junior Megan Weigan, who plans to go into medicine,said she’s going to need chemistry in college.
“I might as well take AP chemistry in high school with a good teacher,” she said. “The summer class prepares us for labs. This way, we’re ready when school starts.”


(Excerpts and photo from this article from the Boulder Daily Camera.)