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Virtual lab wins prestigious prize awarded by Science
Date:4/29/2010

Students in introductory chemistry classes often start off with learning how to balance chemical equations. The educational message, according to Carnegie Mellon University chemistry professor David Yaron, seems to be, "if you take in this stuff that's not very interesting, you may get to use it later."

Aiming to substitute that approach with activities that allow students to design and carry out experiments more like real chemists, Yaron and some of his colleagues in the field developed the ChemCollective, virtual laboratories and online activities for introductory chemistry students. Because of their innovation and effectiveness as teaching tools, the software and corresponding Web site have been chosen to receive the Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE). Science is published by AAAS, the nonprofit Science society.

With virtual experiments such as one that allows students to use chemistry concepts to solve a murder in a research group whose work focuses on an antitoxin for spider bites, the ChemCollective offers the drama and intrigues of chemistry to students early on, Yaron says.

"I hope there are some students who don't think they're interested in chemistry or don't think they're good at chemistry who might get drawn in," he says.

The Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE) is intended to single out the very best online materials freely available to science educators. The acronym SPORE suggests a reproductive element adapted to develop, often under duress, into something new. It also refers to the intention that the winning projects may be the seed of significant progress in science education, despite the many challenges to educational innovation. Science publishes an article by each award recipient, explaining the winning project. The article about the ChemCollective will be published on April 30.

"Improving science education is an important goal fo
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Contact: Natasha Pinol
npinol@aaas.org
202-326-7088
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Source:Eurekalert

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