MAGIC IN CHEMISTRY CLASS: AN ACTIVITY TO FOSTER STUDENTS´ INTEREST
According to different studies, students often find the subject “chemistry” difficult and unattractive. The concepts may seem too abstract, and they find it difficult to establish connections between what they learn in these classes and their daily life. Context-based methodologies allow the students to connect the theoretical content of their chemistry classes with their interests and previous knowledge.
Human beings have always been fascinated by magic. Nowadays, the Harry Potter character is a clear example of this: millions of readers from all around the world have accompanied the young magician throughout the seven novels and eight films of the saga. Many young readers of the same age as the magician could identify themselves with him. For students in high school, Harry Potter belongs to their daily lives, and he offers a great opportunity to contextualize some content in the chemistry classes.
In our oral presentation we will introduce an activity, comprised of a series of experiments related to some magical excerpts of the Harry Potter saga, that may foster the students´ interest in chemical issues.
In the Harry Potter saga, the Kwikspells is a correspondence course that allows mages without magical abilities to recover their magical power. There are many spells in the Harry Potter books that can be reproduced with help of chemical reactions.
In the activity that we present, "Kwikspells with Harry Potter", a teacher (or even advanced students) adopts the role of Harry Potter or of some teacher at Hogwarts, and through a demonstration activity, some moments of the saga, where magic has a fundamental role, are shown. The teacher reads excerpts of the books were the action takes place, he or she shows some images of the films, and then, with help of students, the magical effect narrated is reproduced. This way, students are shown how chemical processes can be used as substitutes of “real” magic.
In the activity there are a number of experiments that can be carried out. We will explain some of these experiments that follow a coherent narrative:
1- The trip to Hogwarts (coloration of a flame with copper chloride)
2- Honeyduck exploding bonbons (explosion of hydrogen balloons sprayed with lithium chloride and copper chloride solutions to produce colored flames)
3. Magic ink (an ink that changes its color when it is used on a paper, previously sprayed with different indicators)
4- The magic teapot (catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide with potassium iodide to produce steam inside the teapot)
5- The phoenix (burning a cloth sprayed with ethanol and water, preventing it to reach its ignition temperature)
6- Evanesco spell (a polystyrene foam shape disappears when it is dissolved in acetone)
7- Magic bubble bad (a lot of foam is produced by catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide with potassium iodide, and the addition of detergent and ink)
8- Lumos spell (chemiluminescence effect when luminol reacts with hydrogen peroxide)
9- The dark mark (a wire soaked in a CuCl2 solution burns with a bright green flame)