Chemistry Moles: THS students celebrate Avogadro’s number

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal




TUPELO – Tupelo High School’s chemistry teachers needed to find a way to help their students learn a complicated concept critical to the course.
They decided to have a celebration large enough to attract students to campus at 6 in the morning. They called it Mole Day.
The day is intended to help students remember Avogadro’s number, a figure they will plug into equations they’ll work throughout the year. The number – 6.022 X 10^23 – is also called a mole, and it is not an easy one to memorize. So on Mole Day, students gather at 6:02 a.m. on Oct. 23 (10-23) each year.
“It is a great way to generate interest in chemistry as a subject,” said THS chemistry teacher Teresa Ware. “It breathes life into a not lively subject.”
About 80 students arrived at school before the sun rose to eat a breakfast of mole-themed foods they had brought. That included cakes and cupcakes decorated to look like moles, as well as guacaMOLE, MOLE (doughnut) holes, MOLEtel (rotel) dip and various casaMOLE dishes. After eating, they sang songs, recited poems and said pledges dedicated to Avogadro’s number.
During chemistry class, they performed calculations using moles for the first time.
“We had briefly introduced the concept and reviewed it a little, but this is really how we kick it all off,” Ware said.
A mole is a counting unit, like a couple is two, a dozen is 12 and a ream is 500. A mole is 6.022 X 10^23, which represents the number of atoms there are in 12 grams of carbon-12.
Its significance is that it allows scientists to determine how many atoms, or other small particles there are in an element. If a scientist knows how many grams of oxygen she has, she can convert that measurement to moles and discover how many atoms she has.
“Chemistry is based on moles,” said THS junior Chandler Craig, 16.
Mole Day is a national event that Tupelo High School has been observing for 15 years.
“Before we started, we found that kids had a hard time remembering what the number was,” said THS chemistry teacher Monica Rowe. “It really drives that home.”
During the day, students are required to promote or spread their knowledge of moles by choosing a variety of activities: telling another class, making a poster, wearing a Mole Day T-shirt or painting their faces like moles. Those who do the most activities are crowned as Mole Day kings and queens.
“It is a fun way of getting to know moles and of making us remember moles,” said junior Yarah Amador, 16. “We have to think of different ways to incorporate moles into what we do today.”
Junior Kirkland Brown, 16, said Mole Day was the reason he decided to take chemistry this year.
“Today is a day to chill and to have fun,” he said. “Who will forget when you eat all day?”
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com