Below is a selection of some of the amazing student work from our past programs.
Decoding The Periodic Table
In the first days of every program, students learn how to decode the periodic table to draw an element’s electron configuration, which is the key to understanding its bonding behavior. This requires students to become literate in several kinds of chemistry nomenclatures, shown here. This quiz response shows that the noble gas argon, with its outer orbital of eight paired electrons will not form bonds, while carbon, with its four unpaired electrons will require four more electrons from hydrogen to complete its octet. This concept forms the basis for understanding organic chemistry.
Chemistry In Motion
With just a few simple concepts in mind, students begin to understand the dynamic nature of chemistry, which establishes the basis for understanding biochemistry. Here, the student shows the loss of three protons (H+) from phosphoric acid over time. These advanced acid/base reactions are normally seen for the first time in college, but again and again, we find that students as young as 2nd grade can easily learn them. .
After only a few classes, students achieve what is seen in university courses. Here, a 4th grader draws a peptide with the amino acid sequence C-H-E-M-I-S-T-R-Y. This fun exercise of spelling out peptides using the one-letter codes for the 20 amino acids is standard curriculum for senior-level biochemistry courses and helps students memorize the amino acids and correctly draw peptide bonds. With an understanding of simple peptides, students can begin to learn any topic in the fields of protein science, enzymology, and medicine.
Rapid And Advanced Learning
The speed that students advance through our curriculum is impressive. After only about 6 hours of instruction, the student here gained the ability to draw the DNA base pairs from memory. Although quite an unbelievable achievement, this level of work is typical for us.
Important questions like “What is a gene?” can only really be answered when a student understands chemistry to atomic resolution. Here, a 3rd grader uses a kid-friendly codon wheel to decode the DNA sequence of A (adenine), T (thymine), G (guanidine), and C (cystosine) to write the amino acid sequence encoded by the gene. These exercises allow a students to gain a sophisticated understanding of mutations, genetic disorders, and cancer.
3D Computer Modeling
When studying large biopolymers like proteins and DNA, students learn how to create and manipulate their structures using 3D molecular modeling software. The image here was generated by a 5th grader from atomic coordinates after just one classroom session. It shows an iron-containing heme molecule (green) nestled in the binding pocket of the oxygen storage protein myoglobin (yellow). Learning biochemistry with the aid of 3D molecular modeling programs brings students to the cutting edge of modern science.
Hand-held molecular modeling is an essential part of our curriculum. Every day, students spend time building and observing 3D models like the one here. In chemistry, structure and function are closely linked, and understanding the properties of a structure is often the key to understanding how it works. Here, a student draws part of the PETE polyethylene polymer from the model they built. These very large molecules are one of the most common kinds of plastics. Understanding what everyday things are made of is extremely exciting for the students, and can begin a discussion of the environmental impact of the widespread use of these materials.
We strive to give students high-level understanding of science, but our greatest goal to inspire them to plan their own future of discovery and invention. The work here is from an advanced 5th grade student who has begun a highly creative and imaginative project, all on his own, of creating (and naming) new biochemical structures. He has begun improvising on the concepts learned in the class to create molecules that have never been seen before. Integrating genetics, inorganic chemistry, amino acid chemistry, and several other concepts, he has truly begun to think like a scientist.