5 Online Resources to Help Chemistry Students ace This Year’s C-SEC Exams

The Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (C-SEC) Exam season has started.

It’s a season that many students along with teachers and parents approach with some trepidation, some optimism, and others with much skepticism. Especially when it has to do with Mathematics and hardcore science subjects such as Physics and Chemistry.

And one can hardly blame them. Over the last decade or certainly in the last three years, Math and Science CSEC pass rates from year to year have shown little improvement. Exam results show a consistent decline in student performance in these subject areas.

Look at these stats.

For the purpose of this post, I’ve lifted these quotes about performance in the Science subjects from the 2016 report posted by the Caribbean Examinations Council, the examining body that sets C-SEC exams for Caribbean students. On their website,www.cxc.org, the examination body reported “a mixed performance in the science subjects this year” with results recorded as follows:

Chemistry saw a three per-cent decline in performance this year when compared with 2015 with 56 per cent achieving acceptable grades this year compared with 59 percent in 2015.

There was a seven-point decline in performance on Integrated Science this year when compared with that of 2015, sixty-four per cent of entries achieved acceptable grades this year compared with 71 per cent in 2015.

Physics and Human and Social Biology improved marginally, the exam body reported.

It noted, “Performance on Physics improved marginally with 63 per cent of entries achieving Grades I-III this year compared with 61 per cent in 2015,” and  an “eight-percentage-point improvement in performance on Human and Social Biology this year, 53 per cent of entries achieved acceptable grades compared with 45 per cent in 2015.”Though a specialist area, Agriculture Science students performed best overall in this area of science,  with CXC.org reporting as follows:

“Both Agricultural Science Double Award and Agricultural Science Single Award recorded very good performance this year with slight improvement in the Single Award and slight decline in the Double Award. Ninety-two per cent of entries for Agricultural Science (Double Award) achieved acceptable grades this year compared with 94 per cent in 2015. Eighty-nine per cent of entries for Agricultural Science (Single Award) achieved acceptable grades this year compared with 87 per cent in 2015.”

Following the release of the results each year, the media has put a spotlight on the issue. The ensuing discussions have brought some insight into the reasons why the majority of Jamaican candidates are failing the Science subjects. C-SEC students have complained that the questions are challenging while some STEM educators here believe this is because students here are not making the necessary connections with real life and chemistry. One Ministry of Education STEM consultant who shared her views

One Ministry of Education STEM consultant who shared her views on a TVJ produced panel discussion, convened in 2015 to discuss the concerns over the declining pass rates in Math and Science, believes that the root of the student’s difficulty in addressing these ‘application’ level questions on exams stems from poor classroom preparation.hat same discussion, Math and Science teachers were challenged to integrate more high-level thinking and deeper learning strategies in their classrooms.

Out of that same discussion, Math and Science teachers were challenged to integrate more high-level thinking and deeper learning strategies in their classrooms.

Of course,  these are strategies that will benefit students right across the national curriculum, but Science and Math subject requires a stronger push at this time if we are to see an uptick in the C-SEC Math and Science pass rates. The Ministry of Education has also launched campaigns like the observance of National Mathematics Week and a

The Ministry of Education has also launched campaigns like the observance of National Mathematics Week and a Math Counts Expo to help primary school children engage in the subject.

To address the inherent fear for Math among citizens said to be the Ministry also embarked on television advertising to encourage Jamaicans to embrace Mathematics instead of fearing it. An emphasis on STEM in the school system and an e-Learning portal where students can freely access learning resources for Science and other subjects form part of the government’s plan to turn around the attitudes of Jamaican students and their parents to the Sciences.

One may argue that in this age of information and the world wide web, finding resources should never have been an issue for any student or teacher seeking supplemental material to expand on topics.

As a parent and teacher, I have found that there are enough free resources online to draw on, but it appears that many of us, especially our students, are not doing the needed research or maybe do not know where to start looking. Hence, the purpose of this post is to show you a few resources that will help prepare your child or student, if you’re an educator, tackle the C-SEC Chemistry curriculum. If your child is in lower school, these resources will also give them a head start in their Science studies.

The resources I’ve listed here are engaging and will help the Chemistry student learn the concepts faster as well as help them make those important real world connections. This is not a complete list, but you’ll find some interesting content to get your student or child interested. Here they are.

1. Science 360

Web page: (http://science360.gov/topic/Chemistry)

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Science360 is an up-to-date view of breaking science from around the world. The Science360 Video Library is a curation of the latest science videos which immerses visitors in the latest wonders of science, engineering, technology and math. The videos are provided by scientists, colleges and universities, science and engineering centers, the National Science Foundation and more. According to the site developers, Science360’s mission is to engage the general public, science junkies and students alike in the cutting-edge discoveries and big science stories of the day.

2. Ted-Ed video lessons

Web page: (http://ed.ted.com/periodic-videos)

Kids wishing to learn the entire periodic table can view a full TED-ed Lesson on each and every element in the Periodic table created by the team at Periodic Videos. Choose an element from the table found here: lessons allow kids to watch a video hosted by scientists on the element. Videos include demonstrations and explanations of the element. Students and teachers can Watch the video. For a short quiz on what was learned, click on THINK. To learn more, use DIG Deeper to find additional resources that will help your child/student see how the science is applicable in the universe. Join open and guided discussions through the Discuss button. All the videos are created by video journalist Brady Haran, featuring real working chemists from the University of Nottingham.

3. Nature Chemistry

Web Page: nature.com

Nature Chemistry is an open access monthly journal dedicated to publishing high-quality papers that describe the most significant and cutting-edge research in all areas of chemistry. Select from any of the free open access articles and blogs available on nature chemistry to tap into a comprehensive and rounded perspective of “applied” chemistry that will enable the deeper thinking required by the CXC Chemistry curriculum.

Follow the site’s Sceptical Chymist blog (http://blogs.nature.com/thescepticalchymist/) and in particular the Your Element Round Up post found at http://blogs.nature.com/thescepticalchymist/2012/09/in-your-element-round-up.html for a round-up of essays done on elements in the periodic table. To access the series of essays, click on each non-faded element tile and it will links out to the essay about that element in the journal. These are currently free to access, the website informs.

Nature Chemistry also publishes review articles, news and views, research highlights about important work reported in other journals, commentaries, book reviews, correspondence, and analysis of the broader chemical picture beyond the laboratory — including issues such as education, funding, policy, intellectual property, and the impact chemistry has on society. In this way, the journal aims to be the voice of the worldwide chemical community. Use this subject index to find what you are looking for.

4. Khan Academy

Web Page: (https://www.khanacademy.org/science/chemistry)

Khan Academy is among a growing number of sites called open education resource sites which offer learning resources to the public free of cost. Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study a range of subjects at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. “We tackle math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more. Our math missions guide learners from kindergarten to calculus using state-of-the-art, adaptive technology that identifies strengths and learning gaps. We’ve also partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content,” the website declares on their About page. The site owners tout the site as a global classroom, noting that resources are available in more than 36 languages in addition to the Spanish, French, and Brazilian Portuguese versions of the site.

5. Slow Motion Science films

Free! Slow Motion Science videos deliver as advertised: explosive methane bubbles, water rockets, Coke+Mentos bombs, and microwaved CDs– all in super-slow motion. The videos are a labour of love from the U.K.-based creator, Sam Hankin who recorded science experiments, a total of 30GB worth of video footage, in high resolution at 400 frames per second to 3000 frames per second. The videos were then compressed into a web-friendly format for our viewing pleasure. Physics and chemistry teachers will find among the collection, great lecture supplements and topics for inquiry-based learning. For students, the videos will be a treasure trove that you can use to demystify those abstract chemistry concepts.

So, there you have it. Five links to Chemistry resources which will help lift your child/students Knowledge, comprehension and application profiles in the next Chemistry examination.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, so feel free to share any additional resource that you’ve come across and that you could recommend.

Wish you every success in your upcoming exams.