One of the year's most exciting labs, "Flaming Methane Bubbles" produced impressive flames -- and an even more impressive understanding of key lessons in chemistry.
Throughout their sophomore year, Montrose students engage in 10-12 Chemistry labs. None offer as dramatic a payoff, however, as "Flaming Methane Bubbles." Earlier this month, Science Teacher Monica Baker led girls through a firsthand look at the chemical reaction of combustion. "This is a signature experience at Montrose that students remember for years. Before we performed the lab, they had to predict the products and write a balanced equation for the reaction," Monica explained. In addition to chemical reactions, Chemistry students also discussed the concept of specific heat capacity, which is high in water, making it resistant to heat changes.
Coating their hands in water and then methane gas bubbles, students approach Mrs. Baker to ignite the methane. Because the combustible gas is lighter than air, the bubbles simultaneously burst into flames and move up and away from the girls' hands. "The water that was on their hands also protects them from the flame and heat since it has a high specific heat. They must wear safety glasses and short sleeves, take off all jewelry, tie their hair back and put their arms straight out with flat hands. This ensures that they don't place their face over the flames," Mrs. Baker said.
STEM matters at Montrose. Lab-based learning helps girls develop the skills of logical inquiry and investigation. Mrs. Baker sums it up best: "Students learn and retain material better through active learning. They develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills when they apply what they have learned in lecture to an experiment that is occurring right before their eyes. By seeing, handling, and controlling materials and supplies, they gain knowledge that is impossible to teach them through traditional methods."