This chemistry block is extremely cool. For the last week and a half the students and I have been exploring combustion, which means we're basically lighting things on fire, watching them burn and setting up mini-explosions in class. How cool is that! (Of course, we're also learning that combustion is what happens when a substance reacts with oxygen and other concepts like that, but the demonstrations are the cool part.)
I have to say that is what is so cool about Waldorf education. Though we get to the concepts connected with the things we're learning, the concept is not the entire point by any stretch of the imagination. I always think that the goal of my teaching is to create fond memories for the subject matter. So though the students may not remember a fixed concept like oxidation or combustion, they'll absolutely remember the colorful flames they saw when the mixture of zinc and sulfur ignited and the feeling of dread they felt when I set one student's dollar bill on fire. Then, when they come across these subjects again (like in high school) they'll have a natural affinity and interest in the subject, when they are really ready for the definitive concept.
Tomorrow we begin studying acids and bases. I'll start with letting the students taste two different "mystery substances" and try to describe the difference between the two. Then they'll put their hands in two different buckets to feel the difference. Then finally they'll watch the magical color changes as I add red cabbage juice to the different substances. Then we'll make red cabbage juice together. We might talk a little bit about naming these different substances "acids" and "bases" but we'll go into that in much more detail on Thursday, after they've had a chance to sit with these experiences a bit.
Though they're sometimes challenging, right now I'm loving exploring this stuff with them!