Today we started energy bar charts, or as students call them, LOL diagrams. This has to be my favorite part of modeling chemistry so far. In all the years I took and taught chemistry, there was never a consistent was to describe energy storage and transfer. Energy was treated almost like magic, energy sometimes appeared and sometimes disappeared. It could be both a product or a reactant. I ha to develop a model of energy based on the disparate examples the curriculums gave. Even with my smartest friends, misconceptions abound. Especially because energy was almost always an afterthought. I used to try to squeeze in electro and thermo in the concluding weeks of the school year.
Now as I look back, I can see that my students had no clue what role energy played all year long! This is the traditional approach and I will never go back. My students this year will be prepare with a thorough mental model of particles and energy so that they can visualize how thermal energy can be transferred to and from chemical energy. They will also be prepared to discuss entropy and enthalpy as they learn the concepts of how energy can be stored in a system. I can’t wait for more!