Monday, March 21, 2016

Discovering Design with Chemistry

278417Discovering Design with Chemistry
Written by Dr. Jay Wile
Published at Berean Builders

About the curriculum

Discovering Design with Chemistry is a high school chemistry course designed for students who have completed Algebra 1. This independent-study, college-preparatory course covers fundamental aspects of chemistry such as the classification of matter, atomic structure, spectroscopy, chemical bonding, molecular geometry, physical change, chemical change, stoichiometry, solutions, ideal gases, acid/base chemistry, reduction/oxidation reactions, thermochemistry, thermodynamics, kinetics, and chemical equilibrium. Weaving together concepts and their mathematical applications, the course teaches students how to think as a chemist so they can analyze the major changes that occur in matter.

The course contains 46 separate experiments that illustrate various concepts being explored. Many are quantitative in nature, including measuring the wavelength of microwaves, determining the number of water molecules in a hydrated compound, calculating percent yield, measuring the concentration of a hydrogen peroxide solution, determining the concentration of acetic acid in vinegar, measuring the specific heat of a metal, and determining the change in enthalpy for a chemical reaction. Others are qualitative, such as performing flame tests, examining the interference of light waves, comparing metals to nonmetals, exploring Boyle's Law, doing litmus tests, and electroplating.

Throughout the course, the student is shown how chemistry reveals the amazing design that exists all around us. From the details of atomic structure to the makeup of the very air that we breathe, chemistry shows us the marvelous handiwork of God.

My Thoughts

I will be completely honest with you.   I dreaded chemistry when I was in high school.  You see I was placed in the higher group of my level when I was in my last year of high school.  This meant Physics and Chemistry classes as well as Advanced Math.   Sigh.   I was hoping to go in science…. but I realized that it wasn’t a good fit for me – even though I like learning about it.   Honestly, I think having a good teacher helps a lot when you are learning anything in science.  My teacher wasn’t the best…   So now that my son is studying biology (I really enjoyed this class in high school and had good grades too!) I was dreading looking into chemistry for his grade 10 science curriculum simply because I didn’t enjoy myself that much.

I started looking into it early as I have a tendency to plan in advance and not wait at the last minute.   I was thinking of pursuing with Apologia which made sense since my son desire to go in science and the books from Apologia generally prepares the students better for upper level school.   But then I stumbled onto a facebook post from Dr. Jay Wile presenting his upcoming chemistry curriculum for high school published at Berean Builders.  Wait what?   Many readers were asking question and that is where I discovered that the new edition of the chemistry book at Apologia was not entirely up at the quality level of the 2nd edition.  Dr. Jay Wile also reviewed the 3rd edition in more details on his blog.   I took the time to read as much as I could on this.   When I was done I had two options in front of me – either I should try to find a used 2nd edition of Exploring Creation with Chemistry from Apologia which contains experiments that could be more difficult to do due to having trouble to find some items in the supply list or switched gears for a year and get the new book published at Berean Builders.   As I was debating this, I approached the publisher and hoped I would be able to review the new title when it comes out.

I was delighted to get an email confirming shipment back in August 2015.    And today I am pleased to write about Discovering Design with Chemistry.  First and foremost, I need to tell you that I wish I had a teacher like Jay Wile to explain chemistry when I was in high school.   He explanations are clear and help you digest the concepts  in your brain.   From the first page of the first chapter I knew that this book would be a keeper and that my son would be well prepared when it comes to chemistry. 

The set includes the textbook which contains the main text with highlighted terms to memorize as well as a comprehension check questions and examples.   Each chapter also includes at least one experiment for a total of forty-six found throughout the book.   In average your student would do about three experiments every two weeks which isn’t too bad.   In the inside of the book, you will get a periodic table of the elements as well as a list of the elements ordered by their chemical symbols.  At the end of the book, you will find the bond energies, the standard enthalpies of formation, the absolute entropies, the standard Gibbs free energies of formation and the vapor pressure of water.   I suspect that these quick tables and information are place judiciously on the inside of the hardcover book so that the student can quickly flip to them for a quick reference.

Once you crack open the book, you will have to read the introduction since you will find information on how to use this book.  You will also obtain a list of supplies needed to do the experiments included in the book.   Many of the experiment in this course requires a kit that contains some specialized equipment and chemicals (more on this later).  Finally, you are also reminded that a website is also available to help you during this course on chemistry. 

Discovering Design with Chemistry is divided into sixteen chapters:

  1. Measuring Up: Measuring distance, using different units, significant figures, using significant figures in mathematical problems, relationship between units, converting between units, prefixes in the metric system, scientific notation, measuring area and volume, converting between volume units, measuring mass, measuring time, density.
  2. What’s the Matter?: mixtures and pure substances, homogenous and heterogeneous mixtures, mass conservation, elements and compounds, law of definite proportions, Dalton’s atomic theory, law of multiple proportions, what’s wrong with Dalton’s theory?
  3. Making Sense of Atoms and Elements: abbreviating and arranging elements, periodic table of the elements, defining the atoms that make up an element, isotopes, radiation, nuclear weapons, electromagnetic spectrum, energy of light, illuminating the structure of atoms – the Bohr model, spectroscopy.
  4. The Modern View of Atoms and Their Chemistry: waves/particles, out with orbits/in with orbitals, do electrons really behave like waves?, so where do you put these electrons?, what good are electron configurations?, Lewis structures for elements, metals/nonmetals/in-betweens, ionic compounds, ionic compounds that don’t follow the rules, an important characteristics of ionic compounds.
  5. Covalent Compounds and Their Molecular Geometry: share and share alike, Lewis structures of covalent compounds, naming covalent compounds, periodic properties and how they affect covalent compounds, a consequence of polar covalent bonds, molecules in three dimensions, is it polar?, why is polarity important?
  6. Physical and Chemical Change: chemical and physical changes, temperature changes, phase changes, kinetic theory of matter, an important exception: water, chemical reactions, balancing chemical equations, mathematical nature of chemical equations, formation and decomposition reactions, single and double displacement reactions, combustion reactions.
  7. Stoichiometry: counting atoms, mole problems, using the Mole concept, moles infesting chemical equations, limiting reactant, using more complicated chemical equations, stoichiometry gets massive, a practical application of stoichiometry.
  8. Still More on Stoichiometry: the err is human, percent field, empirical and molecular formulas, determining empirical formulas of metal oxides, determining empirical formulas with combustion analysis, more complicated combustion analysis, determining empirical formulas from percent composition, polyatomic ions.
  9. Chemists Have Solutions: dissolving solutes into solvents, solubility, some ionic and polar covalent chemicals aren’t very soluble, concentration, molarity, molality, depression, elevation.
  10. It’s a Gas!: how pressure is defined, Boyle’s Law, Charles’s Law, Absolute temperature, combined gas law, gases in Stoichiometry, Dalton’s Law of partial Pressures, Vapor Pressure and boiling point.
  11. Some Pretty Basic (and Acidic) Chemicals: characteristics of acids and bases, chemical definition of acids and bases, acids and ionic bases, determining the chemical equation for an acid/base reaction, pH scale, acid/base neutralization, acid/base titrations, diluting acids and bases.
  12. Reduction and Oxidation: oxidation states, reduction and oxidation, basics of batteries, analyzing galvanic cells, counting electrons and balancing simple redox equations, batteries that you actually use, electroplating, downside or redox reactions.
  13. The Heat is On: What is heat?, specific heat capacity, measuring heat, calorimetry, latent heat, heat associated with chemical reactions.
  14. Thermodynamics: enthalpy, bond energies, Hess’s Law, activation energy, changes in entropy, Gibbs free energy.
  15. Kinetics: what things affect the rate of a chemical reaction?, collision theory, rate equation, determining reaction orders, activation energy, temperature, rate constant, how catalysts works.
  16. Chemical Equilibrium: establishing chemical equilibrium, equilibrium constant, chemical meaning of the equilibrium constant, why salt melts ice, Le Chatelier’s principle, equilibrium concepts applied to acids and bases.

Each chapter contains clear information, quick comprehension check, stunning photos as well as explanatory graphics and specific instructions for the experiments.   You might wonder why dedicating a whole chapter to measurements but when you think about it a bit you will realize that if your student understands basic concepts in measurements, the rest of lessons in the book will be easier to grasp.  While I read the first chapter I was very pleased with how Dr. Wile explained the difference between English units and the metric units.   I will always be in awe to the fact the most of the world uses metric units while the U.S. still use the English units.   But that is another debate for another time I suppose.

As you can see in the pages below, you will find easy to understand graphics, photos and information that is written to help you better understand the concepts in this book.   The more I discover this book, the more I wished I had it in my hand when I was doing grade 12 chemistry.  Sigh.   I would probably have obtained better grades…


What makes this course even more interesting for me is the fact that Dr. Wile do not hesitate to demonstrate that chemistry shows the marvelous work of God.     It was important for me to get a book that would present the information accurately and that it would be faith based.   I am definitively not disappointed with this course.   I am confident that this course will prepare my son above and beyond the expectation of a chemistry course in regular school.   

You will also get the Answer Key & Tests book when you purchase the set.   This specific book contains all the material related to all sixteen chapters of the book – that is the solutions for the review, the test as well as the solution for the test - as well as two final exams (and their solutions) for each semester you are using the textbook.    Bottom line the book can be divided into two semesters: Chapters 1-8 and Chapters 9-16. 

My only disappointment at this point in time is the fact that a journal type product is not available in order for my son to study more accurately this course.  However, at the grade level he will be doing in September, I think he could be more than able to organize himself and use a notebook in order to take notes, answer questions and prepare for his exams.   It will be a great way for him to develop organizational skills when it comes to his studies.

A lab kit for this course is also available separately by Nature’s Workshop Plus.  However, a lab supply list is also included in the book for you if you decide to purchase the items separately.  Twenty-seven experiments can be completed without the kit.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a chemistry course that will prepare your student to upper level studies I believe that this book will be perfect for your child.  It will challenge him/her to the point of being completely prepare for the future if he/she wish to go into science.    I have no doubt that the quality of the text and the experiments included in this book will be preparing your child more than any other books out there.   Without hesitation I recommend Discovering Design with Chemistry for any high school student.  This  course will indeed prepare them for college/university!

Note that this course should be done by students who have completed Algebra 1.

Discovering Design with Chemistry is available for purchase on

Disclaimer: Thanks to Berean Builders for sending me the above mentioned product for review purposes . I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.

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