AP Chemistry: The Central Class


Chemistry is the study of matter, and everything is composed of matter. However, it is the study of change, too, and reactions are ubiquitously occurring all around us. Thus, it is no surprise that chemistry is deemed the “central science.” At Tantasqua, students have the opportunity to study this “central science” for a full year, through AP Chemistry. 

This course, quite remarkably, mixes theoretical material with fundamental laboratory concepts vigorously. The course is taught by Mrs. Breinlinger, who is a passionate and enthusiastic instructor. She asserts that the AP program integrates copious laboratory work more so than other high school chemistry courses. In fact, Breinlinger says that many of her students have accumulated valuable laboratory experience as a result of taking this course. Labs in this class are, as an added benefit, inquiry-based, which means that students often have to come up with their own procedural techniques in order to implement their goals. This unique approach leads to innumerable growth, but also makes these experiments a lot more engaging in various respects. Furthermore, it is worth noting that, at least regarding chemistry, students often do not get to execute experiments in such a fashion in prior chemistry courses. Breinlinger’s two favorite labs are the Hand Warmer Lab, and the LeChatelier’s Principle Lab. In the Hand Warmer Lab, students examine various exothermic (heat-releasing) reactions and endothermic (heat-consuming) reactions. From there, they design a hand warmer that is effective, financially feasible, and safe, which they present before a panel of judges (like in Shark Tank). In the LeChatelier’s Principle Lab, students interact with a series of equilibrium reactions to alter the equilibrium position. Consequently, the reactions are quite colorful and interesting from a chemical perspective.

The course delves into topics such as chemical nomenclature (how to name various compounds), acids and bases, enzymes chemistry, and even something as technical as learning how to physically prepare solutions. Mrs. Breinlinger divides the course into eight units; in her opinion, the best units are kinetics, acids and bases, and electrochemistry. According to Breinlinger, these units all integrate higher-level thinking skills with real-world applications. Additionally, she notes that they allow her students to apply their knowledge in novel and interesting ways. 

The full year course allows students to get to know one another and work together through a challenging, yet rewarding academic venture. Mrs. Breinlinger notes that her students often have higher levels of success because of the collaboration and comfortability with one another, as they are frequently working and studying together on rigorous, thought-provoking material. 

Chemistry is a rewarding field, and taking this course will improve not only a student’s knowledge of chemistry, but also their understanding of the world around them; knowledge is power, and AP Chemistry provides far more information than any person realizes they have yet to learn.