After conducting more than 30 presentations at American Chemistry Society (ACS) conferences and national consortiums during the last three years and collaborating on several ACS publications, Dr. Shayna Burchett and Jack Lee Hayes, State Fair Community College chemistry instructors, have drawn the attention of their peers in postsecondary education. More importantly, they are making chemistry accessible and relevant to students at SFCC and other colleges and universities.
Seven years ago, Burchett and Hayes began building their own lab kits for SFCC’s online Introduction to Chemistry with Lab and General Chemistry I with Lab courses because the commercial lab kits did not mirror the course curriculum or the lab experience that on-ground students had. They worked with lab equipment vendors to create a customized kit that provided online students a more engaging experience with safety in mind.
“The commercial kits did not provide what I call the ‘phenomenon first’ approach we use in teaching chemistry,” said Burchett. “We first ask students to conduct reagent experiments that allow them to observe a reaction and then ask them to determine what caused the reaction and why it is important in everyday life. This gives students a reason to care about chemistry and motivates them to buy in to learning it.”
As Burchett and Hayes saw the benefits their students gained from their teaching approach and the customized lab kits, they eagerly shared their story at conferences. The more they shared, more college and university instructors attended their sessions and opportunities to collaborate with peers on professional articles emerged.
Consequently, Burchett and Hayes were asked to contribute chapters in two ACS books, one on distance learning titled “Online Chemistry: The Development and Use of a Customized In-House Laboratory Kit,” and the other chapter on the development of a pre-professional program at a rural community college is scheduled to publish in April or May.
Additionally, Burchett and Hayes’s culture of safety has been published in a Journal of Chemical Health and Safety article titled “Exploding Misconceptions: Developing a Culture of Safety through Learner Driven Activities.” They wrote another article, “Piloting Blended Strategies to Resolve Laboratory Capacity Issues in a First-Semester General Chemistry Course” that provided strategies used to increase lab space as well as student success.
Burchett and Hayes are currently assisting one of their lab equipment vendors in the development of a Small Business Innovation Research grant to improve chemistry courses at SFCC and other institutions as well. Participation in this project is allowing them to field test instruments and influence the development of a software package that will improve student engagement in chemistry courses.
SFCC offers an Associate of Science degree in Chemistry for pre-med majors or students who want to earn a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at a four-year institution. The degree provides students with the first two years of study toward a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. SFCC also offers transfer agreements with other colleges and universities.