The Life and Times of Percy Julian

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Activity 2B (Reading)
What Is Organic Chemistry?

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Lesson Overview This reading introduces students to the concept of organic chemistry.
Learning Objectives

The objective of the lesson is to clarify the difference between the word organic as used by chemists and as used in everyday speech. In addition, it touches on the common notions of “natural” and “synthetic” substances, which are further addressed in the activity Synthetic vs. Natural: What’s the Difference?

Lesson Concepts
  • organic chemistry
  • organic compounds
  • atoms
  • molecules
  • elements
  • compounds
  • synthesis
Materials Required No special materials are required.
Skills Required No special skills are required.
Time Required 10–15 minutes.
Student Ability Level and Grouping This lesson is suitable for students of all levels.
Notes This reading is meant to dovetail with the reading Synthetic vs. Natural: What’s the Difference?
Assessment Not required. The students’ understanding that organic molecules are carbon based can be assessed by discussing whether selected compounds (sugar, petroleum, benzene) are organic or not, based on descriptions of their chemical composition.

This activity meets the following National Science Education Standards (Grades 5-8) and Curriculum Standards for Social Studies.

National Science Education Standards (Grades 5-8)

Physical Science

  • Properties and changes in properties of matter

Science and Technology

  • Abilities of technological design
  • Understandings about science and technology

History and Nature of Science

  • Historical perspectives

Curriculum Standards for Social Studies

  • None.

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