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The Chemistry of Life

The Chemistry of Life is a hands-on, investigative chemistry course for elementary and middle school teachers in the San Francisco Unified School District that integrates college-level content learning with classroom appropriate pedagogy.

Hurrah! Chemistry no longer frightens nor bores me. This course has helped me look at chemistry in a totally differently light. The whole process of looking at chemistry showed me there is so much in this subject that requires not just acquiring knowledge but inquiry.

- SFUSD teacher

What I really appreciated about this course was the fact that I was learning about something in the same way that I hope my students would learn what I teach them. Having gone through the scientific process myself numerous times throughout the course, I feel confident in leading my students through the same experience.

- SFUSD teacher

Due to funding limitations, SEP is no longer able to offer the Chemistry of Life course.

We are actively seeking new funding sources and hope to offer the course again soon.

This 30-hour course is grounded in the California Science Content Standards and focuses on the Physical Sciences standards that address chemistry and its relation to living things as well as the Investigation and Experimentation standards for grades K-8.

Teacher participants investigate…

  • matter, atoms and the elements of the periodic table
  • the states of matter
  • chemical bonding
  • chemical and physical change
  • acids, bases and pH
  • common molecules in living things

And learn to…

  • conduct investigations
  • design experiments
  • analyze data and make conclusions
  • discuss results with peers
  • think critically
  • use strategies to engage all learners in science and support English language development through science

Survey results show that teachers’ confidence in teaching inquiry-based science almost tripled from 34% before to 96% after the course. Teachers report that they did not understand the science concepts that underlie their curriculum they teach in the classroom at the beginning of the course and almost all did so by the end of the course. In addition, teacher participants consistently demonstrate statistically significant gains in chemistry content knowledge after participating in the course.

Teachers leave the course passionate and confident about teaching chemistry, equipped with effective, inquiry-based strategies to teach key chemical concepts and eager to apply what they learned to their own classrooms.

Teacher participants earn two graduate level professional development units through UC Berkeley extension and a $500 stipend for attending all five days of the course and completing all assignments and evaluations.