Grade 10 chemistry students tested their problem-solving skills in a separation of a heterogeneous mixture lab.
Upper School Science Teacher Matt Beckoff gave them all the necessary tools and told them what they had to do but not how to do it. They were tasked with separating a heterogeneous mixture based on the physical properties of the components (sand, salt, and iron).
“The goal of sophomore chemistry is the idea that ten years from now, they will all be problem solving in their daily lives, but they are not going to necessarily be doing it for chemistry,” Beckoff said. “This separation (experiment) doesn’t work very well if they don’t do it in the right order.”
Quincy ’25 and Charlie ’25 agreed that figuring out the order of operations was the most challenging part.
“It was interesting because last year we would just get all the directions, but Mr. Beckoff had us make the directions ourselves. ... It is an area I need to work on, so I improved how I went about things and planned. I think it can help me with future labs and everything we do in the class,” Quincy said.
“It was a difficult lab just because we were not given the steps. We had to work through things without him helping us. It was challenging, but I liked that aspect because it caused us to think more and made the lab more interesting,” Charlie said.
Beckoff said he has made this a theme for the entire class: helping students think about the process and not necessarily the outcome.
“Things like this allow them the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, does thinking about the order of operation when tackling this task matter and if it does matter, what's the most effective order?’ That can be applied to life,” Beckoff explained. “The idea is that failure only really exists in the absence of reflection and if we do fail, we reflect and we still become better problem solvers for that.”