Even though I have taught life science most of my career and not physical science, I still feel it is important for students to understand polarity and electronegativity. If students don't understand polarity, they won't understand why the cell membrane has a hydrophobic and hydrophilic region. Understanding polarity also helps them understand protein folding and so many other macromolecule concepts. Because of this, I spend time before my cells unit reviewing the periodic table, bonding, and polarity. Here are a list of some resources you may find helpful!
The website Middle School Chemistry has a ton of free chemistry lessons and labs aimed at lower secondary grades, including this one on why water is a polar molecule. You can check out the lab here.
This resource is a cartoon called "The Bare Essentials of Polarity" and uses polar bears and penguins to help students visually understand polarity and electronegativity. I use it every year and get so many "ah-ha" moments by the end. You can download the cartoon here.
Similar to the cartoon listed above, I created this review worksheet that uses a tug of war as an analogy for polarity. It would be a great homework assignment following your polarity lesson. You can check it out here.
If you have access to computers, PHET has a free interactive website where students can play around with and observe the polarity of different molecules. You can access the interactive here.
Want to add a little coloring to your polarity lesson? Check out this polarity color-by-number activity to give your students a bit of a brain break. You can find it here.
My friend at Science with Mrs. Lau created this free electronegativity reference page you can print and have students keep in their binders. You can download it here.
I haven't tried this last lab, but it looks like a blast! Students use food coloring, paper, and shaving cream to make observations about polar molecules. You can check it out here.
I hope one or two of those links are useful to you! If you have any other favorites, drop them in the comments, I'd love to check them out!
One of my favorite case studies to examine with students is the tragedy that occurred at Lake Nyos. Located in Camaroon, Africa, Lake Nyos is a lake that formed in a volcanic crater. While villagers thought the volcano was dormant, it was slowly releasing carbon dioxide into the lake. One night in 1986 the carbon dioxide built up enough that the lake overturned and all the carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere. Since carbon dioxide is more dense than air, thousands of villagers and livestock died in their sleep that night of asphyxiation.
While it is a devastating story to learn about, it is good in the sense that it can be applied to so many science concepts. Biology teachers can bring it up when learning about the carbon cycle. Earth science teachers can discuss the story during their volcanoes unit. Physical science teachers can use it to introduce density of gases. It's a phenomena that is so versatile!
I begin the lesson by showing this video clip from National Geographic on Youtube. It gets the students 100% engaged and doesn't reveal why this mystery fog killed the villagers:
Following the video clip I have students read an article I wrote about what happened at Lake Nyos and the science concepts behind it. You can find the article HERE if you would like to download it (appropriate for grades 7-10).
Then at the end of class I like to end with a demo showing how carbon dioxide is truly more dense than air. All you need are 3 birthday candles, some clay or play-doh, a container, baking soda, and vinegar.
Cut two of the candles shorter so all the candles are different heights. Stick them to the bottom of a container with clay. Sprinkle the bottom of the container with baking soda and light the candles. Have students predict what will happen when you pour some vinegar into the container. Students will observe the lowest candle extinguishing first because the dense CO2 that is being formed stays nearest to the bottom of the container. (I do it under the document camera so all students can watch, but if you trust your students with matches you can have them do it in small lab groups instead).
I hope your students enjoy this lesson- I know mine do! It's simple, engaging, and a story your students won't forget.