Life Time Liberal Arts: Chemistry

One of the reasons why I was drawn to Allegheny College was the Distribution requirement. Basically all departments were divided into three divisions:

  • Humanities: Think music, arts, literature
  • Social Science: Think histories, psychology, education
  • Natural Science: Think biology, chemistry, physics

To graduate, I needed to have my major in one field (social science w/Environmental Education), minor in another (humanities w/Music Theory) and take two classes in the third (geology, forest management, etc). This meant that I didn't have "general elective classes" that I was forced to take but I still was able to experience a wealth of human knowledge that is key to a liberal arts education.

As I am finishing up graduate school, I realized that my learning has not been very 'liberal artsy...' Of course in my studies I have had my mind expanded and shown a variety of viewpoints...but all in environmental education. Since July 2015 I have been focusing on myself as an environmental educator. Just as metamorphic rock is formed under intense heat and pressure I feel like I have been molded into this field in a fantastic way.

But I am more than just that. I want to be better at baking. Better at adventuring. Better at gaming! But those are all things I know how to learn about. What if I want to learn about something new...?

So solve this problem, each year I want to have a focus of what to learn about and document it with at least one post a month about the learning process. I already have a few things I want to learn about: space science, architecture, becoming fluent in espanol, but this year I want to focus on...

Bismuth Crystal (retrived from Wilimedia commons)

Bismuth Crystal (retrived from Wilimedia commons)


When I was at Hampton High school, I was convinced that I was going to become a life long chemist. I really didn't like going outside too much and I loved the reactions we did in class. Biology seemed too slow, while physics too theoretical. Chemistry was a perfect balance of hard theory with the end result being an explosion!

But I graduated, found Environmental Education, and have been in love ever since. My last course in chemistry was technically a brewing class in college, but it has been years since I have gone over the fundamentals of the field.

Thinking of this whole year I need at least twelve posts about chemistry specifically. I already have a few in mind:

  • Literature appetizer of an alchemy book
  • Learning about chemistry from Khan academy
  • Documenting wine making or home brewing

But besides that I'm fresh out of ideas...which is where you come in!

If you have any recommendations of what I should do in my year long quest to become an amateur chemist, please don't hesitate to contact me through this website or e-mail! Any thoughts are very much appreciated.

Home brewing kit (retrieved from Wikimedia commons)

Home brewing kit (retrieved from Wikimedia commons)

PS: I also am doing this to fight against one of my biggest pet peeves. I have seen this done with multiple people, but my father has has been the worst offender of this.

When expressing how he doesn't like the feel of something that is made of artificial materials (like plastics) he will call it "chemically." Or say things like "I don't like chemicals." He is trying to express "I prefer to be around materials that I am more used to or see as more natural, like wood and stone and paper, and don't like the feel of artificial materials." Instead by expressing "I don't like chemicals" he is denying the fact THAT HE IS MADE ENTIRELY OF CHEMICALS, AS IS THE WOOD AND STONE HE LOVES!

So please, when picking your words make sure you mean what you say.