Thriving Together: Chemistry Class is a Family Affair

Jennifer Bayline and her daughter Mallory

WASHINGTON, PA (April 27, 2020) – Nothing says ‘new normal’ like the T-shirt of Mallory Bayline, who has recently starred in a series of instructive college chemistry videos. Mallory’s T-shirt reads, simply, “Future Chemist.” She’s no college student, though.

Mallory is the 6-year-old daughter of Jennifer Logan Bayline, Ph.D., an associate professor of Chemistry at Washington & Jefferson College, and Ronald Bayline, Ph.D., a Biology professor at the College. Like the rest of the country, both professors have been stuck at home—with young children in tow—trying to make the best of the global Covid-19 pandemic while teaching both their college students and their own kindergartner remotely.

Jennifer Bayline, who teaches Perfume Chemistry, adapted quickly to the new normal by recruiting her daughter as her lab assistant. Since the quarantine, the mother-daughter team has recorded a series of videos making chemistry together—nontoxic, of course—and shared them with Bayline’s class as part of her online instruction.

“I thought it might appeal to the students,” Bayline said of her creative chemistry teaching strategy, while also acknowledging the educational benefit to her daughter. “You’re not allowed to be boring. Thinking visually, I’ve wanted to make videos of experiments for some time. It’s another way to communicate science to a general audience.”

Among her experiments: making baseball-sized “bath bombs” with her daughter, using a mixture of baking soda, corn starch and citric acid. “They fizzle and dissolve” in water, she explained. More specifically, she added, the mixture undergoes an acid-base reaction when thrown in water, producing carbon dioxide that “fizzles.”

In another mother-daughter experiment, the two tested the alkaline properties of soap that had been made early in the semester by Bayline’s students in a pre-pandemic experiment. They also demonstrated the effects of adding the soap to a water solution of calcium chloride, which mimics hard water and creates soap scum, and adding a water solution of sodium phosphate (water softener).

“The videos usually are about 10 minutes long, and I do some talking during the videos, coupled with some lecture notes,” Bayline explained. “Fortunately, the really heavy-duty chemistry experiments—we made soap, for instance, before spring break—happened to be during the first part of the semester.”

Bayline said she has been using Microsoft Teams to host her classes of 14 students live, online. She then incorporates her video-recorded experiments into those lectures. Meanwhile, she said she also records her lectures and makes her video experiments available for those who can’t make it to her lectures. She said she knows of students who have had to work because their parents lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

Bayline admits that Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order has had its challenges, especially since she and her husband both have had to share the same space in teaching their respective college classes. But she remains hopeful.

“The one silver lining I see in this is that we’re putting everything online so students will have these videos to refer back to in the future,” Bayline said of the videos she has made with her “Future Chemist” daughter during their time at home. “They certainly take time, but they open up new opportunities to help our students. It makes everything more inclusive.”

This article is part of Thriving Together, a series of articles and videos showcasing the ways in which W&J community members are adapting to new situations and supporting each other during this unprecedented time. Read other articles in the series in the W&J News Section.

 

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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