Natural Sciences, Technology and Society

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The project presents two topics: "Smells – Only in Cosmetics?" and "Is handmade soap viable in today's world?" "Smells – Only in Cosmetics?" helps to understand the role of smells around us. "Is handmade soap viable in today's world?" focuses on different detergents (soaps in particular) and their cleaning effect.

In “Smells – Only in Cosmetics?”, pupils learn to separate essential oils from plant material and choose the most suitable method for this, and to better understand the nature of science. The activity is based on a problematic situation where a bottle containing a strange liquid is found in a passenger’s luggage at an airport’s security checkpoint. However, once its contents have been analysed it emerges that the bottle did not contain prohibited substances.

In “Is handmade soap viable in today’s world?”, pupils are expected to design and carry out the synthesis of soap, come up with experiments to test the properties of soap and make calculated decisions regarding the usability of handmade soap. The activity is based on a problematic situation: which soap or other detergent to choose and whether handmade soaps have a place in today’s world.

The aim of the project was to reinforce information on how to implement in new situations knowledge previously obtained in natural sciences classes, based on the scientific content of modern problems related to the social sciences. Materials on several topics for both pupils and teachers were drawn up in the course of the project. The materials focused on how to implement existing knowledge in new contexts, develop problem-solving and decision-making skills, improve the pupils’ motivation to study, and understand the role of the natural sciences in everyday life. All modules can be used for a) aggregating studied material to convert it suitably for a new context; and b) teaching new subject content, choosing a suitable field to focus on.

Basic information

Country: Estonia

Coordinator: University of Tartu, http://www.ut.ee/en

Programme: Other

Project Acronym:

Target groups: secondary school students, teachers

Topic: Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental sciences

Start year: 2011

End year: 2013

Url: http://koolielu.ee/waramu/view/1-a8f3054a-bfd7-4692-ac35-d4636a6cac85

Contact person: Regina Soobard, Email: regina.soobard (at) ut.ee

At this time, there is no information about this project that could be useful to researchers.

One topic forms a module designed on the basis of a three-step model (Holbrook & Rannikmäe, 2010). During the first lesson the teacher will present the actual problem which will help generate study motivation in pupils. This step includes group work, brainstorming and discussions as main forms of study. The next lessons will focus on obtaining new knowledge in the environment of investigative study, and on developing procedural skills. The investigative approach will dominate here, encouraging pupils to ask questions, plan and conduct experiments. This step will shape the skills of independently looking for information and transfer of existing knowledge into a new situation. The lesson addressing the last module aggregates the material studied and helps shape the pupils’ skills of making and justifying decisions regarding the social sciences.

“Smells – Only in Cosmetics?”

The module is based on a problematic situation where a bottle containing a strange liquid is found in a passenger’s luggage at an airport security checkpoint. However, once its contents have been analysed it emerges that the bottle did not contain prohibited substances. In order to solve the problem the pupils need prior knowledge obtained in basic school (separation of substances from mixtures, substances that are water-friendly or water-repellent) and, to ensure better understanding, pupils should complete the basic organic chemistry course beforehand. In the course of the module the pupils will obtain new knowledge of chemistry (genesis and hydrolysis of esters, essential oils and their separation from plants, solubility of substances in different solvents, the perfume industry as a branch of the fine chemical industry, steam distillation, extraction, working principles of the gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer, mass spectrum) and biology (structure of olfactory organ and perception of smell, receptor, smelling as evolutionary adaptation, signal transfer mechanism of smells, smelling and tasting as combined senses, plants containing essential oils).

In the second, investigative part of the module the problem set for the task leads to experimental activities, i.e. separation of essential oils from plants. In the last part the pupils will design an advert for a perfumery product, analyse commercials from the viewpoint of efficiency, correctness and ethics and, coming back to the problem set in the script, make a decision regarding the social sciences on the said topic.

To teach this module you will need computers that are connected to the Internet (computer room or pupils’ personal computers), and the following are needed for practical activities:

  1. for steam distillation: round-bottom flasks, cooler, rubber hoses, thermometer, plant material, electric range, steel pot, spirit lamp;
  2. for extracting essential oils: hexane, ethanol, beakers, kitchen grater, steel bowls, knife, tightly woven fabric for pressing essential oils, spoons, kitchen towels.

Is handmade soap viable in today’s world?

The module’s study activities help shape the pupils’ knowledge of detergents (soap in particular) and their cleaning effect. Pupils are expected to design and carry out the synthesis of soap, come up with experiments to test the properties of soap and make calculated decisions regarding the usability of handmade soap.

The activity is based on a problematic situation: which soap or other detergent to choose and whether handmade soaps have a place in today’s world.

In order to solve the problem the pupils need prior knowledge of chemistry obtained in basic school (water-friendly and water-repellent substances, fats, alkalis, pH, skin functions). In the course of the module the pupils will obtain new knowledge of chemistry (composition of soap, saponification, cleaning effect of soap, hydrolysis of fats, effect of the ion of the same name on the solubility of salt, saponification value, detergent) and biology (fats, pH of the skin).

In the investigative part of the module the practical activity will include the synthesis of soap and examining its properties in order to make a justified decision regarding social sciences on the suitability of handmade soap in the last part of the module. To teach this module you will need computers that are connected to the Internet (computer room or pupils’ personal computers).

The following is needed for practical activities: tripods with hoops and metal nets, beakers (250 cm3), spirit lamps or gas burners (or, as an alternative, electric range with steel pot), measuring cylinder, electronic scale, glass rods or stainless steel spoons, vegetable oils and/or fats (the simplest solution: any vegetable oil; if possible, offer different oils: olive oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, coco fat and palm fat, pig fat), NaOH (KOH for liquid soap), protective glasses and rubber gloves, aprons or smocks, soap moulds (plastic containers, sand moulds, drinking cups). Access to water must be ensured as well as the following: pH-meter or universal indicator paper, plastic bowls, test tubes, test tube racks, rubber caps for test tubes, distilled water, pieces of (light) cotton fabric, various commercial soaps, ketchup, lipstick, blackcurrant juice, etc.

 

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