Teaching lab report writing through inquiry: A novel Green Chemistry first-year undergraduate experiment

Kristen L. Cacciatore, Science Department, Dedham High School, 140 Whiting Avenue, Dedham, MA 02026 and Hannah Sevian, Departments of Education and Chemistry, University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Boulevard, Boston, MA 02125.

ABSTRACT: We present an alternative to a traditional freshman chemistry laboratory fulfilling required AP Laboratory #9. This experiment has four innovative features: adherence to the Green Chemistry tenets of low toxicity and atom economy, an emphasis on the important features of oral and written scientific communication, a link to literacy, and features of inquiry. The importance and essential qualities of written and verbal communication between scientists are discovered by students themselves as they experiment by attempting to replicate different sample written lab reports each lacking some essential information. Experimenting in this way meets several freshman chemistry needs simultaneously: completion of an experiment on mass/mole relationships in a chemical reaction, demonstration of Green Chemistry ideas in action, and most importantly, instruction on how and why scientists communicate in a standard written format. In fact, students invent these standards themselves as they discover this critical process skill through inquiry!