WESTERVILLE, Ohio — Students at Westerville North High School are capitalizing off of what they’re in AP Chemistry these days. For many, it’s made class fun. 

What You Need To Know

  • Chemistry concepts taught in class are applied to a business run by students after school

  • That business, Chem Gems, gives students a chance to make products for sale

  • Students learn all aspects, so they can make smart business decisions 

  • Those products are sold online and at craft shows 

Chemistry Teacher Jeff Bracken came up with the idea years ago to tie what he teaches in the classroom to something that kids could apply in real life. He started with simple things.

“Soaps and bath bombs. And then we ventured into shower bombs, toilet bombs, lip balm, liquid soaps, foaming hand soaps, shower gels. And then we moved into candles," said Bracken.

Bracken sees it as a great way to “model what science is all about."

From the time they started to now, they’ve advanced in the tools used to make everything. Plus, the number of students lined up to take AP Chemistry increased significantly.

“Sometimes it’s more of students who have more of an artistic background, where they're interested in blending the fragrances, blending the different colors,” said Bracken.

Either way, students who might not have normally been motivated to take AP Chemistry are being exposed to a whole new world and inspired to create in ways they may not have before. 

It’s had so much of an impact that students like Cooper Allen, who already has a love for science and math, sees beyond the numbers because the ability to create puts him in a different frame of mind.

“I haven't really been thinking about it from a chemistry standpoint. It's more just like a fun activity," said Allen.

And it’s the fun part that’s sparked him to want to create more things. For other students, like Luayyah Suleiman, she’s even more convinced now that she wants to start a business in the digital space or marketing.

“It made me more excited to show up to class because I’ve become closer to the teachers because of this," said Suleiman.

For teachers like Amanda Mosely, who partnered with Bracken in teaching the business side of things, from marketing and packaging to business plans. She’s glad she gets to be a part of their learning process, while showing students that what’s in a book, if applied right, can make a world of difference. That’s in addition to helping them see that they have the ability to create and run a business with a little help.

“It doesn't have to be a hard thing to do, you know, like usually you hear about this 300-page business plans and that kind of stuff, and it's very intimidating and very scary, whereas these kids can see that, look, we can do this out of the back of a classroom," Mosely said.

While products are sold online, students also sell their products at district craft shows. As items are purchased students have to determine why some products sell better than others and how to manage the inventory. The money they make from their sales goes right back into the program to help keep it running.