This investigative case module was prepared as part of a BioQUEST faculty development workshop entitled Faculty Workshop: Implementing Investigative Cases and Technology in Biology and Chemistry at Center for Science Education in August 2004. The cases, resources, and implementation strategies were developed by participants for use with their own students. We invite you to adopt and adapt the following materials.

The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium is committed to the reform of undergraduate biology instruction through an emphasis on engaging students in realistic scientific practices. This approach is sometimes characterized as an inquiry driven approach and is captured in BioQUEST's three P's (problem-posing, problem-solving, and peer-persuasion). As part of this workshop groups of faculty were encouraged to initiate innovative curricular projects. We are sharing these works in progress in the hope that they will stimulate further exploration, collaboration and development. Please see the following links for additional information:

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Investigative Cases
The Case: Glowing Glass

The month after her grandmother's funeral, Caroline and her family gathered to sort the contents of her grandmother's belongings and donate clothing and household goods to a local charity. One large box contained green and pink glass plates, glasses and small bowls. The glassware was from the early 1920's. Caroline found it interesting and decided to keep the dishes. Once back at her apartment, Caroline's roommate Andrea spotted the box and said "Hey, I've seen that on eBay. You can get a lot of money for those green plates. They post auctions and show it glowing under a black light. They call it vaseline glass."

"Vaseline glass?" Caroline responds. "What does this have to do with Vaseline? I thought glass was made from sand."

Case Author:
Daphne Norton Emory University:Center for Science Education

Case Analysis

Questions that should arise:
What are the components of the green glass?
Why does the green glass fluoresce?
Will the pink glass fluoresce?
Will new glass plates fluoresce?

Option: Include a know / need to know chart like the one below:

What do you know?
What do you need to know?

Learning Goals


I want the students to ponder the properties of everyday materials. I would like them to recognize the uniqueness of objects and understand that each physical difference is a reflection of a difference at the molecular level.

Specific topics may include:
properties of glass
defects of solids
electromagnetic spectrum of light



Investigations and Activities

Students can be given a box of glassware and asked to sort and categorize it by chemical composition and by age. They will have to devise a method for characterization.



Students will usually obtain additional references or resources
to help answer or explore their questions.

Special Data Items

1. glass.jpg


Student Products

Students will propose a method to determine whether or not the glass contains uranium dioxide. Thus, does it fluoresce?

Assessment and Evaluation Plan

Students will work in a group to respond to the question: How can Caroline find out if the glassware is valuable? What makes the glassware valuable?

Each group must propose an experimental procedure for Caroline. They must also give detailed reasoning to explain how to interpret the results of the test.



The case may be used in an inorganic or analytical course. It may be given during a study abroad program the week before the students tour a glass factory in Murano, Italy.

Course name:
Analytical Chemistry/ Inorganic Chemistry
Likely sequence in syllabus:
Chapter on Fluorescence
Properties of glass
Time during term:
two week period
lecture course, but students must propose an experiment
Students in course:
Junior-Senior level
Collaborative elements:
Additional notes:



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