Is organic synthesis an artistic creation?

Students in IB Chemistry need to be able to write reaction pathways to show how different organic traffic lightcompounds can be synthesised. In class today my students used a thinking routine called red light – yellow light to consider the truth of a claim made in a press release by the Royal Swedish Academy of Science about the 1990 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The assertion was that the

synthesis of complicated organic compounds often shows elements of artistic creation

The students considered what it was about the claim that might cause them to be skeptical or question its truth.

Red light – The claim stops them in their tracks and causes them doubt that organic synthesis shows elements of an artistic creation.

Yellow light – The claim causes them to stop, pause and think, maybe organic synthesis might show elements of an artistic creation.

Three sources are used for this routine.

  1. Press release the Royal Swedish Academy of Science about the 1990 Nobel Prize in Chemistry going to Professor Elias J. Corey  for his important contributions to synthetic organic chemistry. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1990/press.html.
  2. Page from wikipedia that shows the 69 steps to synthesising vitamin B12 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_B12_total_synthesis
  3. IB TOK Knowledge framework for “The arts” (below). The IB TOK guide (p.42) says the following about the arts

    “The arts” is a collective term that encompasses the creative productions of humans. The arts explore the experience and reality of being human and are an essential element of culture. The arts could be thought of as creating a bridge between personal knowledge and shared knowledge. Many of them are collaborative. They use emotion as a currency to generate significance at a personal level but reason provides a restrictive framework necessary for the creation of meaning: artworks have their own inner logic. Some regard the arts as having an extra-artistic cognitive function, that they have a message about man’s place in the world which might have social or political implications. For example, there might be a case for supposing that the arts have an important function as a medium for social criticism and transformation. In any case, there is a widespread belief that the arts have a higher purpose to educate by encouraging introspection and sometimes making us think about how we should live our lives.

Routine

  1. Briefly introduce the source material.
  2. Students worked individually, and in pairs to identify
    • RED lights, things that stop them in their tracks and make them doubt the assertion that the synthesis of complicated organic compounds often shows elements of artistic creation.
    • YELLOW lights that cause them to stop, pause and think, maybe there is some truth to the assertion. These can be collected on post-it-notes. You can even given the students red and yellow markers.
  3. Students share their red and yellow lights and the reasons why they categorised them in this way. Document their red and yellow lights and the reasons.
  4. Students created a list of red and yellow lights. The class then reflected on the list and what it was about the assertion that might be problematic?”

IB TOK Arts Knowledge Framework

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Students voices. What did they think?

Red light. Organic synthesis is not an artistic creation because it does not

  • bring about a social transformation since it does not challenge social, moral, cultural beliefs
  • involve the use of emotion
  • contribute to your view of yourself
  • involve self expression

Yellow light. Organic synthesis is an artistic creation because it

  • requires imagination and creativity
  • uses sense perception
  • Uses intuition
  • has its own language and conventions
  • brings about a social transformation that benefits society
  • its value changes over time
  • has its own inner logic. It is intuitive
  • Can shape our view of the world

Follow up

To show how emotions can act as a currency to generate meaning in the knowledge creation process, especially in areas like math and science that use reason and logic as the framework students can watch the documentary about Andrew Wile’s search for the proof for Fermat’s last theorem. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FnXgprKgSE

IB Links NOTES
Group 4 Aims
Chemistry syllabus & cross curricular links 20.1, Biochemistry, Medicinal Chemistry
Learner Profile thinkers, reflective
IB Approaches to Teaching conceptually focused, contextualised
IB Approaches to Learning thinking skills, inquiry based
Nature of Science (NOS)
Assessment Formative
TOK Transferring the critical thinking process developed in TOK
Links to other IB Subjects Group 6: The arts, TOK

References:

Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison. (2011). Making Thinking Visible. San Francisco: Josseyboss.

International Baccalaureate Organization (2013) Diploma Programme Theory of Knowledge Guide (first exams 2015). Cardiff. International Baccalaureate Organization (UK) Ltd.

International Baccalaureate Organization (2013) Diploma Programme Chemistry Guide (first exams 2016). Cardiff. International Baccalaureate Organization (UK) Ltd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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