Upper School chemistry teacher Andrea Chou and English teacher Kimberly Kim learned about a contest the American Chemical Society was conducting this fall that invited students grades K-12 to make an illustrated poem on the topic of the chemistry of fabric.
The contest sparked an idea between the two teachers for an interdisciplinary project, where AP chemistry students and English IV: East Asian literature students could submit a haiku to the ACS contest related to polymer sciences.
But first, the students needed some experience in the subject.
Sprawled out across an Upper School science classroom, students this week conducted a lab where they made nylon 6,10 by carefully adding sebacoyl chloride to a beaker containing hexamethylene diamine. The solutions are immiscible, and nylon forms at the interface of the solutions. If done carefully, students were able to pull long strands of nylon out of the solutions, delicately wrapping it around a glass rod.
While polymer sciences have been taught in Ms. Chou’s AP chemistry courses in the past, this was the first time her students engaged in a polymer synthesis lab. During the next class period, the students shared the illustrated haikus they created, which could relate to nylon or any other fabric.
Ms. Chou and Ms. Kim will assess the haikus and help student submit entries into the contest.
The two teachers plan to continue a lab around the annual ACS illustrated poetry contest, though as the topic of the contest changes from year to year, so too will the chemistry lab.
St. Margaret’s school leaders have long encouraged interdisciplinary units like this, as such curriculum allows students to connect their learning across subject areas and increases the relevance and presents academic content in a new, enlightening way.