STEM Education Poetry

Anchor News

In Intro Chem, texts can fight focus.
But chemists themselves oft convoke; thus
For study sans rancor, 
See concepts that anchor
And for big ideas, central locus.  

This non-Twitter, STEM-education-themed poem addresses the sheer volume of material in an introductory chemistry textbook and one interesting set of disciplinary resources that students may find helpful in organizing their approaches to that material.  

“In Intro Chem, texts can fight focus.”
An introductory chemistry course shifts between vastly different subjects on a weekly basis.  Chemistry textbooks, while wonderful and creative resources, can seem overwhelming with the breadth of their coverage, as a student attempts to find key themes to emphasize in studying.  

“But chemists themselves oft convoke…”
The second line introduces a chemistry-education-related project that the American Chemical Society’s Division of Chemical Education has developed in the past decade.  This project is not itself reported in a chemistry textbook but, as part of the scientific literature, has been published in journal articles and communicated at conference presentations.   This is acknowledged poetically via “chemists themselves oft convoke”: the substance of this project arises from disciplinary meetings and related written communication.    

“…thus/ For study sans rancor, /
See concepts that anchor /
And for big ideas, central locus.”  
The Anchoring Concepts Content Maps are resources that outline key themes for different subdisciplines of chemistry.  For instance, authors Thomas Holme, Cynthia Luxford, and Kristen Murphy have published the General Chemistry Concept Map, highlighting major ideas around which the content of a yearlong introductory chemistry sequence centers.  While the resources are described at the pertinent link for chemistry teachers, I have seen that students likewise find these resources useful, especially in approaching final exams.        

The language in lines 3-5 becomes a bit strained.  However, “study sans rancor… [through] concepts that anchor” is intended to say that these resources lead to a less stressful learning process!  Likewise, these content maps provide a useful “central locus”: a single place in which to find many key ideas of chemistry.