Teach the Teachers

“The Sweet Side of Chemistry: Candy!”

October 11, 2014


   The “Teach the Teachers” workshop was held on Saturday, October 11, 2014, at Mission College in Santa Clara, CA.  This was the second year we hosted the workshop at Mission College, and it proved to be another successful event!


    The theme of the workshop came from the ACS National Chemistry Week theme, “The Sweet Side of Chemistry: Candy!”  In order to prepare for the event, we partnered again with RAFT (Resources Area for Teaching) which has been very successful in past workshops.  Once again, Gilead Sciences generously awarded us a grant of $5000 to allow us to purchase all the materials for the teachers, and provide them with breakfast and lunch on the day of the workshop.


Juanita Ryan picture   The lead instructor for the workshop, Juanita Ryan (nearest screen in photo at left), managed the registration and organized the demos and experiments pertaining to candy.  The workshop focused on the ingredients, physical and chemical properties and ways to make different types of candy. During the presentation and experiments, the lead instructor always discussed the science behind the candy making and their properties.  For example, when teaching Dissolving Dyesthe instructors about the dyes from skittles she asked the teachers why the colors do not mix when placed in the plastic container with water (photo at right shows dyes dissolving but not mixing immediately).   The teachers started discussing about the different density of the sugar water versus the density of regular water.  The teachers were very excited to tie in the science with these fun experiments they plan to take back to their classrooms.


   The demos and experiments were found from a variety of websites including the ACS National Chemistry Week. More ideas came from a book called, “Candy Experiments” by Loralee Leavitt (ISBN 978-1-4494-1836-6).  Each teacher received a copy of this book to take back to their classrooms.  One advantage of hosting the workshop at Mission College was the ability to do all the experiments in a Chemistry laboratory. Many of the teachers commented how they haven’t seen a lab room in a long time and how excited they were to tell their students about the college Chemistry lab!



Setup   The day before the event, ACS volunteers (~5 people), Mission College Students and Staff (~15 people), and Juanita Ryan came together to assemble the kits for each of the teachers and set up the lab room for the workshop (see photo at left).  Getting everything organized the day before made the workshop go smoothly on Saturday.


   A special feature of this workshop was that we had two guest speakers from our local ACS section give a talk on the history and science of chocolate.  Howard (speaking, photo below) and Sally (far right, in blue blouse) Peters give this exciting presentation all around the world so it was a special treat to have them present at our workshop.  The teachers were fascinated to learn so much about chocolate and eager to bring the information back to their students.


  In addition, ACS volunteers (~10 people) and Mission College Faculty and Staff (3 people) had lunch with the teachers that day.  The teachers were excited to talk to scientists and asked many questions about what it was like to have a career in science and how we all got there.  Now they have a chance to share their experience and stories with their students. The luncheon was a great success, and we hope to continue this type of interaction between the scientists and teachers in our future workshops.


   This workshop would not have been possible without the Gilead funding, the wonderful staff from RAFT, and the Mission College students, faculty and staff.  In addition, the ACS Santa Clara Valley local section leaders and volunteers came together to help organize the materials and the event.  It’s the energy, enthusiasm, and partnership from all the organizations mentioned above that make this very special workshop possible.  The workshop obviously impacted the middle school teachers who attended and their students.  We hope to continue the Teach the Teachers workshop for many years to come!


Ashley Piekarski

Workshop Organizer


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