Head-Royce News

TEACHING & LEARNING: (VIDEO) When Science & Art Collide

Stop motion photography produced by HRS Advanced Chemistry students

Students in the Upper School are combining art with science in an innovative way to demonstrate their grasp of advanced concepts in organic chemistry.

Using stop-motion photography, students in Stella Glogover’s Organic Chemistry class collaborated to animate a 25-step complete organic synthesis to reveal exactly how molecules move, break, and form.

Stop-motion photography can be a laborious process, involving placing one item in front of a camera and taking a series of pictures, then moving that item an inch or less and taking another series of pictures. When the images are played in sequence, it creates the illusion that the objects are actually moving. As you can imagine, if you have complex items to move (as did our chemistry students), this process could take days to complete!

“The most difficult part of the project was coordinating with the whole class to make the video flow. We had to redo a lot towards the end of the project once we realized some sections didn’t really fit with the rest,” Audrey B. ’18 said.

While the main objective of this project was for students to learn about synthetic pathways, they ended up learning so much more.

“As the students contributed their individual sections to the project, it became more and more apparent how similar the seemingly disparate reactions were. Students were able to analyze the complex reactions in such detail precisely because the basic behaviors were so foundational,” Glogover said.

This project, a collaboration between Glogover and Anna Myles ’17, started in May 2016. Myles was the only student remaining in Glogover’s Organic Chemistry class when the then-seniors departed for their senior projects. The two worked together analyzing a similar series of reactions. The synergy of this project, with Glogover’s work on the Strategic Plan committee, led to the idea of project-based learning as a means of incorporating authentic assessment into the chemistry curriculum.

Glogover says that a traditional Organic Chemistry curriculum includes having a large number of somewhat arcane facts at one’s fingertips. Reactions and substances are often referred to by acronyms or specialized lingo (TMEDA, Tosylate, Grignard, etc.). But she wanted to dig further and ask what it truly meant in the 21st Century for information to “be at one’s fingertips?”

“Is it mission-critical to memorize what we can find easily online?,” Glogover posed. “I think it takes critical thinking to research the reactions and plan for their visualization. The movie making embodies the creative process and leads to greater learning for both the student and the viewer,” she continued.

The students who participated in the project agreed, and were enthusiastic about the hands-on component.

“I think it was a great supplement to our learning. Using the models was a good way to help understand the reactions, and to share what we learned, too,” Audrey said.


Bird's Eye View is a story series highlighting our work towards the initiatives and goals laid out in our Strategic Plan: Bridge to 2022.

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