Ancient Matter

The Days of Alchemy – a Digital Story

The way we study chemistry today, hasn’t always been the case for our ancestors. In fact, prior to the modern periodic table of elements and the term “chemistry”, ancient civilizations were experimenting with the pseudoscience of “alchemy.”

One of the most astonishing features of this pseudoscience, was that it was apparent in almost all of the ancient civilizations, with many never making contact with each other.

As you will hear in the video, what we know about science today has been a culmination of knowledge gathered from cultures across the world.

Ancient Matter Video

As you heard in the video, alchemists believed that everything was created from the four main elements of Earth, fire, water, and air with a few variations in various cultures. One of the biggest goals of alchemy was to create gold from other metals, often times using mercury.

Has anyone heard of the “philosopher’s stone”?

For the final project in this unit, I would like each group to create their OWN digital story on the philosopher’s stone in a chosen culture/civilization.

For the video, you will be using Adobe Spark Video – like I did in the video above.


  • Pick a culture/civilization to discuss philosopher’s stone
  • Maximum of 4 minutes
  • Each slide should have audio and a picture
  • Provide a written transcript

You have a lot of freedom in what type of information you would like to provide about the culture and it’s work on the philosopher’s stone. The goal of this project is to become familiar with creating a digital story and to also explore how chemistry was shaped through thousands of years of experimental collection through various cultures.

The final projects for all be shared on this class website under their own blog post. We will watch everyone’s project throughout the week.

Grade will be determined on completeness of requirements.

Please email me with any questions.





PhET Simulations

Hello Class,

For almost every unit, there will be an accompanying list of PhET Simulations created by scientists at the University of Colorado – Boulder. Below I have provided instructions on how to use this application. Under each unit I will name the simulations that go along with the unit. This is a great way to see chemistry in action and will help with visualization of chemical processes and concepts.

Here is a screencast on how you can access these simulations and use the website:

Directions discussed in video:

  • For each unit, there will be a list of PhET Simulations at the bottom of the “additional resources”
  • You can click on specific simulations, or you can go to the PhET Wesbite directly
  • If you are going to the main website, click on “Play with Simulations”
  • You can then select your simulation by either searching through “chemistry” or by “grade level – high school”
  • Depending on the unit, you will go through a variety of simulations

Although many of these simulations will be used in class, you can also download them on your computer at home. It is a great way to review material to gain a better understanding and to also practice building molecules, atoms, mixing solutions, doing acid/base titrations, etc.

If you are having trouble viewing a specific simulation, please contact me so we can figure out whether it is a program issue or if you do not have the right software downloaded on your computer. I encourage you to use these simulations throughout the year to gain a better understanding of complex chemistry concepts. Additionally, as you will see you can view simulations under physics, Earth science, biology and math, which will be useful for future classes. If you plan on pursuing a science degree at the college level, I recommend bookmarking the PhET website as it will be useful for college classes as well.




Unit 3 Review Podcast

In this post I have provided both an audio and written version of the review for the unit 3 test. The podcast provides information on what you should understand in order to be successful on the test. Please review any of the resources found here, and check your understanding by reviewing the podcast found below.


For those students who would prefer to look at a list, here is a list of topics:

  • States of matter
  • Physical vs. chemical properties
  • Intensive vs. extensive physical properties
  • Law of conservation of mass
  • Heterogenous vs. homogenous mixtures
  • Separating mixtures
  • Elements vs. compounds
  • Law of Definite Proportions
  • Law of Multiple Proportions

I still highly suggest you listen to the podcast and use the list as a way to check off topics you have a strong understanding of. As mentioned above, additional resources are available on the unit 3 page.

At the end of the podcast, I offer you one of my own test taking tips. I have found an additional “Top 10 Test-Taking Tips” that can be valuable information for you.

  1. Have a positive attitude
  2. Make a plan
  3. Don’t wait till the night before
  4. Be prepared the morning of the test
  5. Understand how the test works
  6. Manage your time
  7. If your stuck, circle it and move on
  8. MC – process of elimination
  9. Make sure your writing is legible or bubbles are filled in completely
  10. Review questions!

You can find the full article here, along with additional resources about being successful on tests.


  • 25 questions
  • Each question is worth 2 points
  • You will have the whole class period to take the test

*Test details have also been covered in class and are listed in the class syllabus.

If you missed any questions, you will have the opportunity to rework them. This class is about mastering chemistry, therefore you will have the opportunity to submit a new answer and earn half the point back by providing either new work or writing an explanation.

Please feel free to email me with any questions.






Elements vs. Compounds

Hydrogen is estimated to make up approximately 75% of the mass of the universe. Hydrogen is classified as an element and is among the 90 elements that occur naturally on Earth. An element is a pure substance that cannot be separated into simpler substances by chemical or physical processes. However, we know from the Periodic Table of Elements that there are more than 90 elements. The remainder of the elements have been made by scientists and are not known to exist naturally on Earth.

Many elements on the periodic table you have probably heard of – iron, gold, oxygen, carbon, tin, copper, etc. Each of these elements will have a unique chemical name and symbol, which can be found on the periodic table.

In contrast, a compound is made up of two or more different elements that are chemically combined. That is, they cannot be separated by physical means. Table salt’s chemical name is Sodium Chloride, or NaCl. This compound is one part sodium and one part chlorine – together they are salt. You cannot physically separate the sodium from the chloride because they have been chemically combined. Another common compound is water, or H2O. Water consists of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen.

Can you think of some other common compounds used in daily life?

Mercury – Physical or Chemical Change?

It’s possible that you may have heard of mercury poisoning before. Often times people associate mercury poisoning with either mercury in a thermometer or mercury that bio-accumulates in fish. The source of mercury in fish is methyl mercury. Mercury has also been used in a variety of products throughout our history, including dental fillings.

Some fish are found to have very high levels of methyl mercury in their system:

Read the mercury guide article about the different sources of mercury poisoning. It is also available in Spanish. 

What happens when mercury is consumed?

Physical changes are changes that alters a substance without changing its composition.

Chemical changes is a process where one or more substances change into a new substance, which will have different compositions and different properties.

Based on these two readings and the definitions above, would you suspect mercury poisoning in humans to be the result of a physical or chemical change?

What are some of the side effects of mercury poisoning?