In this approach, the science content learning is derived from three sources:
- It is taught directly
- It emerges from student interaction with, and argumentation about, computer and conceptual models influenced by representations of the scientific processes themselves
- It is reiterated through modification of the computational models to handle to more complex situations.
Using this approach, we address important concepts in chemistry as they appear in 8th grade standards, but we can also push beyond those standards by examination and use of the models. Chemistry content will be heavily influenced by co-PI Etzkorn’s university-level Green Chemistry course, and the ways that she teaches her students to reason.
In the context of atmospheric science, where laboratory experiments are not possible, professional scientists rely heavily on models for understanding and prediction. Modeling choices in the current curriculum include the interactions between matter and energy, with emphasis on thermodynamics and kinetics, both of which capture aspects of key ideas in chemistry such as the importance of reaction rates, equilibrium, and energy transfer. By fostering and scaffolding students’ thinking with simpler versions of these models, we help students “think like chemists”.