RCHS sophomore Morgan Wetzel lights the “mole cannon” as sophomore Julia Drobish aims it at the back of the classroom where her peers are standing. Chemistry teacher, Dave Ferguson instructed the students on how to safely light and fire the cannon and students in the back of the room were wearing eye protection as they were blasted with stuffed, fluffy moles they all created as an extra credit project.
By Maddie Merritt, RCHS intern writer; Photo courtesy of Katie Fornelius
Chemistry is arguably one of the hardest classes high schoolers take. Many students who have taken any chemistry course at Rock Canyon High School (RCHS) say it has been the hardest class they have taken. Chemistry teacher Dave Ferguson is the only reason, some students claim, they are making it through.
“Mr. Ferg is really understanding, and he’s really direct; he makes that deep connection with his students,” Krishna Shenoy, a junior at RCHS said.
Ferguson likes to entertain students and explore the subject matter at hand through exciting experiments that engage students and give a visual explanation of what is happening at a molecular level.
“I like that chemistry is very hands-on. We do a lot of experiments. He [Ferguson]doesn’t just tell us information and expect us to get it; he understands that we need to see it in order to understand what’s going on,” said Reese Titensor, a sophomore at RCHS and a Castle Pines resident.
Students are able to write out chemical reactions and then experiment with the different chemicals in order to test their predictions. Ferguson gives real world applications such as the Percent Composition Lab in which students get to take on the role of forensic toxicologists for the day.
Chemistry can be an incredibly important course, especially for students aspiring to medical careers. Chemistry teacher Kerry Hinton venerates RCHS’s chemistry program because of its curriculum. “I think it is one of the most creative chemistry programs you can have. We do a wide range of activities that go above and beyond normal textbook chem. The curriculum shows you how chemistry can be cool, plus we have a rocket scientist,” Hinton said.
Prior to teaching, Ferguson served as a rocket scientist for the Air Force, working in rocket propulsions and making rockets and technical missile weapon systems for 15 years.
Ferguson said, “Chemistry is the best class. It’s abstract, it’s challenging, you use math skills, you have to learn a new language, and you use all your skills in order to be successful. Teaching is a calling I have from God.”
Ferguson has been teaching for 27 years, 14 of them at RCHS. He will be retiring at the end of this academic year and will be sorely missed. His students appreciate his dedication and the inspiration he has provided.