Screw it, gimme a “C”

Back in high school, I was an unabashed science geek. The requirements for graduation were, I think, 6 terms of science. I took 24. Chemistry, Biology, Physics, assorted applied sciences… I was pretty damn nerdy.

So I didn’t expect a simple CH100 class – better known as “Chemistry for People Who Can’t Do Math” – to be pissing me off quite so much.

I mean, the book work is great stuff, a little deeper than I expected from a 100 level course but I really won’t complain too much. Read a reasonably thick chapter, answer four or five pages worth of problems based on the text, take a weekly quiz, take a midterm. Been getting a lot of 9/10 and 10/10 scores.

The lab portion, on the other hand, is a godawful amalgamation of arts & crafts projects that aren’t being tied into the book work at all, and for which we’re getting bugger all feedback.

The first day of class, we all got a bag of chemicals. We got a lecture on chemical safety and wearing safety goggles and how to clean up our areas and keep the pets and kids out of things.

Our first lab involved mixing some chemicals in drop quantities and observing visual changes. We used 4 of the 20 or so vials of assorted chemicals we were given in our chemical bags.

The next three weeks were spent building small scale balances out of drinking straws and pins.

Then we built spectroscopes from cereal boxes and plastic knives.

Now we’ve been looking through the spectroscopes at various lights and coloring in little pictures of what we see with crayon.

I am given to understand that, as of week 8, we will be performing another lab that actually involves chemicals. Which seems like quite a novel concept for a chemistry class.

In the meantime I am having a really frustrating time building balances and coloring in spectrum, because I’m discovering a crucial hole in my abilities.  My balance falls apart if you put anything heavier than a quarter-gram in it (it’s supposed to have a 10g weight limit) and my spectroscope turns everything into a blurry rainbow mish instead of the clearly defined bars I’m supposed to be seeing.   I can’t even tell that there IS a color between “violet” and “blue”, no matter how many times I read about this mythical “indigo” color that goes in the middle.

Unfortunately, my general confidence that I’m doing pretty well on the “lecture” portion of the class doesn’t help much, because – even though the “lecture” represents 75% of the final grade – you cannot pass the class unless you get a 70% or higher score in the lab portion. That means, if you follow the math, that you can get a 92% in the class and fail.

And I’m not sure how I’m doing on the labs because the teacher hasn’t graded anything since our first lab assignment five weeks ago.

So, to hell with it. If I manage to pass the class, I will be happy to see it in the rear view mirror. I have no idea what I’m going to do for the other two terms of lab science I need to take to graduate, because this one class has managed to turn me from a science geek into someone dreading the thought of the next science course.

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