Living by Chemistry Curriculum Review by a Teacher

A Teacher’s Take on Living By Chemistry (4 out of 5)

Let me preface my comments by telling you about my teaching history: I have been teaching chemistry for 10 years. I have taught college-prep chemistry and chemistry for academically challenged students. My Master's degree is in Science Education, and I focused my research on inquiry learning and inquiry-based tools. Given all of this, I hope that my opinion of the Living by Chemistry curriculum will carry some weight with you…I love the Living by Chemistry curriculum! (Visit their website to get a free sample, read testimonials, and more.)

Here's an overview of the program:

  • 5 units meant to span the whole school year
  • aligned to California State standards…easily adapted to other standards
  • inquiry/discovery based lessons that appeal to a wide range of learners
  • adaptable PowerPoint presentations for EVERY lesson
  • quiz & test banks
  • reasonably priced laboratory kits for every unit
  • curriculum may be used in part or in whole
  • great customer service

What I love

I love that every lesson starts with a chemcatalyst, a kind of ice breaker to get the scientific juices flowing. Students are encouraged to give answers without fear. Teachers reserve any judgment and help students wonder about what might happen. This is a definite departure from the traditional textbook that tromps all over discovery. Science comes back to life with this program!

Lessons are also sequenced so that a unit starts with an activity and the following lessons dissect what was discovered in the initial inquiry. This helps combat the "why did we do this lab" conundrum.

The first unit, the Alchemy Book, is a favorite. It addresses many topics necessary to chemistry in an interesting way and I have heard of some teachers using just this book and then transitioning to a traditional textbook.

What Could Be Better

  • The program is not heavy in the math area. If you are teaching a college-prep class, I would suggest supplementing the curriculum with your own more rigorous materials.
  • Some of the experiments do not work very well. Always test the experiments well ahead of time to see if you need to make modifications. Sometimes I would turn an experiment into a demonstration if it was too difficult for students.
  • There is no textbook so you will need to come up with a note-taking method for your students.

I have used this curriculum for a learning-challenged class for the past 3 years. It has been fabulous, but I do modify it to include less math. We also do not do a lesson a day as the curriculum suggests. The beauty of it though is that you can easily adapt it to your needs, and you and students will still reap the rewards.