The Contemplative (Chemistry) Classroom

con·tem·plate – verb, “look thoughtfully for a long time at”

It might seem like contemplation has a natural role to play in education. Learning anything new would seem to involve looking, being thoughtful, investing time. But nothing can raise student (and faculty and administrator) highbrows faster, or higher, than suggesting that classroom time be given over to silent contemplation. So a recent Washington Post story (To get students to focus, some professors are asking them to close their eyes, Washington Post, A. Reiner, 7 Apr 2016) about Bryn Mawr physical chemistry professor, Michelle Francl, and her use of silent contemplation to lead students through some of the mathematical mysteries of quantum mechanics got me thinking … so much of organic chemistry is visual. What might my students gain if I paused over a complicated structural formula and said a la Francl, “We’re going to take a minute and a half and just look at it”?