The Perpetual and Profound Question: Does cooking chocolate melt faster than ‘normal’ chocolate?

WHY is it that even some of the BEST Science students the school can acquire insist on investigating: 

“the melting points of different types of chocolate”

for their year 10 student investigation?



All you people in the Science Lab: Can I have some originality PLEASE?? 



Making M&M atoms with Year 10

Modelling The Subatomic Structure of an Atom (Year 10)

Prior Knowledge: atomic number=number of protons, atomic mass= number of protons + neutrons, number of electrons=number of protons, electrons exist in energy levels or shells with 2 occupying the first shell and 8 occupying the shells after that.


mnms skittles mnsmmini


periodic table


1. Write on the board:

M&Ms= protons


M&Ms minis=electrons.

2. Point out that the size difference between protons and neutrons is negligible (for year 10) and that electrons are much smaller than the other two subatomic particles. Hence, the mini M&Ms are the electrons.

3. Students use the information in their periodic table to construct an atom of hydrogen, an atom of lithium and an atom of beryllium.

4. Students draw the atom they have created out of consumables.

5. Students create a table showing similarities and differences between the structures of the three atoms. (help them to notice that they all have one electron in the outer shell and that each one has a different number of electron shells)

6. Students use the information in their periodic table to construct an atom of helium, neon and argon.

7. Students draw the atom they have created out of consumables.

8. Students create a table showing similarities and differences between the structures of the three atoms. (help them to notice that they all have full outer shells and that each one has a different number of electron shells)

9. Link the number of electrons in the outer shell to the group number (explain the helium anomaly) and the number of electron shells to the period number.

My class is pretty bright, so I managed to leap straight from this to ionic bonding by getting them to trade mini m&ms. They picked up on their own that the atoms become charged if you change the amount of electrons, and thus I could introduce the concept of ions.

I’m not going to lie, this lesson was a massive hit. They worked as fast as they could in order to eat their atoms, and the physical model also helped them to see that the nucleus doesn’t get ‘filled’ it is actually just MADE of protons and neutrons. Likewise with ‘shells’. If you remove an electron from a shell with only one in it, the one underneath becomes the outer shell.

This is actually a lesson I borrowed off of another teacher and then modified. It was originally shown to me as a lesson for teaching year 9 about the existence of protons, neutrons and electrons and their organisation within an atom. In this instance, you should provide the kids with a scaffold showing a distinct empty nucleus and some empty energy levels.

This is a very versatile lesson and I hope it works for you! Don’t forget to write the lollies off on tax….even the extras that YOU end up eating!


Resources: Brain-food for you and your students, courtesy of YouTube and the Net

MAN-Steve Cutts 


The above is my favourite piece of propaganda: a hyperbole of the damage we are doing to our environment. It is biased and confronting, so it is best used for an older/more mature class and should be followed up with some sustainable behaviours that the students can enact. Otherwise, it can be quite depressing. I have to admit that it’s something I often share with adults as well. 

Wild Sex-Sexy Dance Offs


I used this for my senior Biology class when I wanted to teach them about mate choice and sexual selection. It is not necessarily part of the curriculum, but it helps kids to understand that “survival of the fittest” is about organisms surviving long enough to produce offspring rather than just surviving. You can also use it to explain the reasons why some characteristics become more prevalent than others in a population. 

Positive and negative feedback loops


Perfect because it’s simple, but still detailed and it uses subject specific terminology. Senior biologists love this one! 

The Science of Cats


This is a great video, answering interesting questions using simple, applied Science. It’s a great treat for the end of a lesson of hard thinking. 


This website is useful for communicating with students outside of school. It gives you administrative privileges so that you can control what they are posting to one another, but they can ask questions of you or each other. If I use a resource in class, I post it to the wall for future reference, either for them to study or for me to find again. They can share photos, videos and websites too. If I am absent from school and my class has laptops, I can leave them a copy of the work to refer to. Some classes respond to it better than others, but it’s still a useful resource, and the layout resembles Facebook, making it easy to use.

Dog Cloning


This is a cute little interactive explaining the process of cloning. It uses a hypothetical scenario of cloning  imaginary dogs and I LOVE it because it removes some of those common misconceptions. For best effect, get each kid to do it individually on a computer. Takes about 10 mins at the most. 

Mantis Shrimp-The Oatmeal


Educational for all involved, fun facts with an accessible perspective on the Science. I use it when I’m teaching about light waves, and also in senior Biology when we’re learning about how eyes work. 

Nikola Tesla-The Oatmeal


Same as above, plus the excellent ‘human element’ that can be missing from Science sometimes. It is essential for teaching kids about how to actually BE a scientist and it also makes them think about where our acquired knowledge has come from. From memory, it has offensive language, so I save it for seniors or I tell students to look it up at home on their own. They can be enticed to do this with the promise of offensive language.

My biggest goal when teaching is making my students think. I like to give them information, perspectives and opinions so that they can come to their own conclusions and make carefully-weighed decisions. The best way for me to do that is to continually collect information, perspectives and conclusions for myself. I also spend a fair amount of time finding new representations of scientific issues and concepts. The resources above are great, so please check them out and make sure that you pass them on. Teacher or not, this knowledge is useful and accessible for people of all ages and educational backgrounds. 

Healthy faculty relationships can often be built around shared resources. We are good at passing on resources in our faculty when someone asks for them, but we are working towards building an electronic repository that everyone can access at their own leisure. This is a positive and progressive step forward for us, and I recommend it. 

Happy Learning! 


Next Teacher Please!

The “middle” year ten Science class, Term four, guaranteed by streaming to contain average, ‘c’-level students.

The end of a topic.

Test completed by the regular attenders, still chasing the ghosts on the roll to submit more of the work and complete said test.

To further asses the long-term retention of information and to aid with programming for the coming year, students are asked to provide course and teacher feedback.

Q1. What topics were studied this year?

Silence. Most can eventually agree that they studied something about space and that last year, there was something about electricity.

Q2. What was your favourite topic

Must have been the space one

Q3. What would you change for this course next year?

We should study some electricity like in year nine.

Finally, thankfully, the stupor breaks.

“A different teacher” says Andrew*, grinning at the other students, looking for someone to share his joke.

It falls flat, but I just can’t leave the comment alone, because I agree with him. I job-shared this class with another teacher, but despite two scientific intellects and two different perspectives on teaching, we failed them. They didn’t feel like a successful class at all. “What would you change about our teaching?” I probe. It was at this point that Andrew admits to his joke. “I just hate school.” The other students begin to nod, looking relieved that maybe the task of having to expend some brain power reflecting on their learning will end.

“Guys, this is important to me,” I say. “I am not going to get angry with you, please just give me some ideas for what to teach year ten next year, for how I can change the atmosphere in the room!”

Suffice it to say that the rest of the feedback session is just as flat, and it confirms my suspicion: I failed to connect with this class and to help them value learning Science because they refused to actively think about things. I cannot understand that in a person because I overanalyse every aspect of my day, and so, they failed to connect with me too.

So here I am now, overanalysing the results of my failed feedback session. I thought I was valuing my students’ opinions, helping my teaching to grow and assessing the relative importance of the different topics that we teach to year ten scientists. Instead, I was serving them more of what they have been rejecting all year: decision-making power and higher-order thinking skills. The two magic things we were told at uni to incorporate into every lesson!

Before the conversations in the room turned to endless complaints about the inferior intellect and poor fashion choices of past and present teachers, the only other tired phrase I managed to squeeze from them was “more pracs”. Now, the reason this truncated statement made me angry was that whenever we did “pracs”, the same students who made this statement fought me when I insisted that they perform practical tasks and analyse results. These same students failed to submit a take-home experiment and report until I buried them in N-determination warning letters. So you can understand my vehement rejection of this as a considered and valuable response. What they meant was “more lessons where we follow a recipe to burn something without searching for meaning afterwards”.

The final average marks of this class are indeed at a C level and their test results show exactly what you would expect of a middle-range class. Their results are also quite clustered. Apart from a few chronic work refusers/truanters and one or two hard workers, the students have all achieved very similar results. Most teachers would look at this and see that even though the students were uninspired, they kept up with a year ten workload and most achieved their average results. However, their lacklustre attitude and their continual laziness causes me psychosomatic chest pain whenever I have to teach them. I agree with my Andrew, who is a pleasant person when I get to interact with him outside of the Science classroom: they are ready to complain about me to their next educators, whoever they may be, because I had the audacity to insist that they think for themselves.