Crossing levels and representations: The connected chemistry (CC1) curriculum

Sharona T. Levy, Uri Wilensky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Connected Chemistry (named CC1 to denote Connected Chemistry Chapter 1) is a computer-based environment for learning the topics of gas laws and kinetic molecular theory in chemistry. It views chemistry from an "emergent" perspective, how macroscopic phenomena result from the interaction of many submicroscopic particles. Connected Chemistry employs agent-based models built in NetLogo (Wilensky, NetLogo, Northwestern University, Evanston, 1999a), embedded in scripts that structure and log the students' activities. A conceptual framework was developed to structure students' experiences and learning through exploring the models. The framework describes three spheres of knowledge (conceptual, symbolic and physical) and four forms of access to understanding the system (submicro, macro, mathematical and experiential). Activities were designed to help students build an integrated view of the chemical system, by focusing on understanding within each form of access, and promoting transitions between the spheres of knowledge. The macro-level descriptions were used to bridge between the three spheres and support these shifts. The conceptual framework for the Connected Chemistry curriculum is discussed and demonstrated. Further development directions are suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-242
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Science Education and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments Foremost, we thank Michael Novak, the lead curriculum developer who collaborated with us in designing and forming the curriculum. We thank Phillip Cook, high-school chemistry teacher, who taught several classes with the early research versions, Reuven Lerner and Spiro Maroulis, who contributed to the research and data analyses, Paulo Blikstein and Pratim Sengupta, who participated in the research, Seth Tisue and the NetLogo development team for their help in debugging models, and all the members of the Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Learning who have supported us in many ways, and our partners at Concord Consortium, Barbara Buckley, Janice Gobert, Paul Horwitz and Ed Hazzard and members of the MAC project team. Modeling Across the Curriculum is funded by the Interagency Education Research Initiative (IERI), a jointly supported project of the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Education and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, under NSF Grant No. REC-0115699. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agencies. This paper continues and expands the authors’ AERA 2006 paper titled Students’ foraging through the complexities of the particulate world in the Connected Chemistry curriculum.


  • Agent-based models
  • Chemistry education
  • Complex systems
  • Computer models
  • Gas laws
  • Kinetic molecular theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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