The Perse School

Mole Day Mania!

1 Mar 2013

Head of Chemistry Dr Khimyak describes the school's inaugral Mole Day:

"Experiments and Moles are possibly the two most important elements of a Chemistry course; it would be hard to imagine how you could create one without them.

Ask an average Year 10 pupil at The Perse and he or she will tell you that Experiments make you look forward to Chemistry lessons, while Moles is the one topic they often dislike.  

Whenever Moles are introduced there is the compulsory suggestion from pupils that a mole is just a cute furry creature that lives underground. We gradually come to the idea however, that a mole is a unit of amount of a substance that contains the same number of particles (atoms, molecules, ions etc.) as there are atoms in 12g of C-12 isotope.  

At the beginning of 19th century an Italian scientist named Amedeo Avogadro estimated this number to be 6.02×1023 and it is this magnitude that creates the main difficulties for pupils.

A number close to septillion is inconceivable and hard to imagine, which is why chemists often resort to using analogies such as the fact that one mole of marbles would cover the area of Great Britain to a depth of 1500km!  This number also helps us appreciate just how small the micro-world of atoms and molecules is, something that once again is inconceivable and hard to imagine. Just think, there are more than 10 moles of water molecules in a glass of water.

In order to help pupils appreciate the sheer magnitude of the Avogadro Number, and to make them think about moles out of the context of the classroom we have named 6th of February ‘Mole Day’. 

The idea is not new and originates from US, where Mole Day is celebrated on the 23rd of October (10/23 American style) from 6.02 am to 6.02 pm; but there is no reason why it cannot be 6th of February (6/02 British style).  This year it was an experiment and, in a true spirit of an experimental scientist, below is the entry from our lab journal.

The day was clearly a success and we hope that the next time the topic of moles is introduced to pupils they are able to recall the Avogadro number and appreciate its magnitude rather than sigh with dread.  But like any scientific experiment, this one will have to be repeated to prove its reliability.

See below for a gallery of photos of all the different activities happening on the day (Matthew Power Photography)

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