Chem Cash: The Classroom Marketplace

Earlier I blogged about creating a classroom marketplace where students “sell” artifacts that they’ve created for class. Several teachers are calling this the Classroom Exchange instead of a marketplace. “Exchange” has a bit less of a commercial sound; although, the concept does have a commercial aspect to it.

I’m starting to get feedback from teachers who are using the marketplace this fall. I’ll share some of that in a moment, but let’s have a quick review on what the marketplace is.

The concept is this: Student projects are typically made up of digital “artifacts” such as images, video clips, audio clips, regular text-type paragraphs, PowerPoint slides, and so on. Why not break out those individual artifacts and share them with other students who are working on the same project to make the work a collaborative effort?

“I will trade my audio clip on ‘uses of implicit and explicit language’ for your PowerPoint slide on figurative language.”

Students don’t just trade the artifacts, though, in the marketplace. They sell them. They sell them using a classroom currency, and the teacher determines what that currency is. This helps foster a sense of entrepreneurship in students. They get real-world lessons on how quality content sells. They also learn how to market their products and brand themselves. Students can then use the money that they earn to the marketplace to “buy” real-world things in the classroom.

The classroom marketplace allows for group work, but without the group. It draws on the strength of the crowd but also rewards the individual  It helps students realize that their talents can be monetized, and the seeds of entrepreneurship can be planted.

When a project is completed using the classroom marketplace, students will have created 80-90% of the project on their own, and the remaining 10-20% they will have “purchased” from the marketplace.

You will basically need four pieces to create your marketplace structure.

  • Student Portfolio: Students will need a digital portfolio to market the artifacts that they create.

  • Marketplace Listing: Students will need a way to “list” their artifacts in the marketplace.

  • Currency: You will need a marketplace currency. This lets students buy and sell and reap the marketplace rewards. Start students with a small amount of marketplace currency so that they can make their initial purchases. They earn all other monies on their own in the marketplace.

  • Receipt System: You will need a receipt system to track marketplace purchases. This lets students protect their creations and learn to be more responsible digital citizens.

As students work on their projects, they can create things specifically for the marketplace. These are artifacts that they may or may not use in their own projects.

Marketplace artifacts include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Video Clips – created by the students.

  • Images – created by the students.

  • Powerpoint Slides – Slides should contain an image plus text content.  Images or videos that were discovered on the internet (not created by students) MUST show proper attribution. Students who sell a PowerPoint slide that uses images or video from the internet will have to “forfeit” some of their selling price to “pay” the original creators (Ouch! Just like real life.) Students should sell just single slides, not entire sets of slides. Only Powerpoint-type slides can have images and videos from the internet. Those cannot be sold directly.

  • Quotations – Quotes from the play or about the play that are stylistic done (i.e. cool LOOKING quotations like this).

  • Text Content – any text created for the different sections of the project. Students should sell a paragraph at a time, not entire sections.

  • Audio Clips – instead of text, narrate the content in an audio clip.

  • Music – created by the students (use any of the music creation apps like Loopy HD on iTunes).

  • Skills from Other Classes – (other than video, image, and audio creation) translations into other languages, mathematical analysis, historical background.

The Atomic Structure Classroom Marketplace

My spouse, Denise Renfro, is running a classroom marketplace in her chemistry class at Douglas Byrd High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Students are working on an atomic structure project and are sharing artifacts with each other in a marketplace that she set up in Google docs. Her marketplace is shared with other chemistry classes at the school, so students get a real-life experience of exchanging with people beyond their own immediate circle.

Denise explains, “We’ve had our first artifacts submitted this week. In the final project, students have to develop a web page that presents their knowledge and understanding of the atomic structure. This puts students in a constant cycle of learning and producing.”

“Most students, as they get used to the marketplace, are using SmartArt in PowerPoint to construct mind maps for the initial vocabulary assignments; although, they’re definitely not limited to that. So far, they all look really good. Most are much better than what they would turn in to me for a grade. They definitely want to contribute items that their classmates want to buy to the marketplace, and they want to earn that “chem cash” for later on.”

Antonio, an 11th grade student in the project, says, “This did just start out as SmartArt, but I saw others doing that, and I wanted to make my design stand stand out. It really helped me get a good foundation in the vocabulary, too. I spend way more time dealing with these words than on a typical vocab assignment.”

Another student, Shelly, says, “I feel like I’m learning the material better. I’m doing something with it. I’m trying to sell a slide in the marketplace, so I want mine to be the best. I want it to stand out.”

Sample Student Work



In the Atomic Structure Marketplace, students can use their “Chem Cash” to buy music time while they are working in class, extra credit points on quizzes and tests, homework passes on certain assignments, and physical items, too, like pencils, pens, markers, and erasers. 

Classroom Advice 

“Start with a small project to go to the marketplace with,” Denise recommends. “Have it end with a presentation based on just one learning module. This lets students get used to creating artifacts and posting to and buying in the marketplace. Let there be a quicker rather than longer turn around time for when students need to have their presentations complete.” 

“We are using soft deadlines to have artifacts completed and in the marketplace. Students should be worried if they’ve not hit the soft deadlines. We have eight days to complete the entire assignment, but next semester, I will just use five days.” 

“We are using Edmodo for the assignment. That’s where students find all their directions and where they communicate with me and their classmates. This has really driven up their Edmodo usage, too. I’ve also found that students are really more savvy on phones than on computers.  Their production abilities are not as developed as one might think, so this has really forced them to focus their skills.” 

Here are my directions for the Atomic Structure Marketplace: 

Project Overview 

Understanding the structure of the atom is essential to understanding  all other topics in chemistry.  Students begin learning about atoms as early as 5th grade, so atomic structure information is not new to the typical chemistry student. However, there is much forgotten between middle school science and high school chemistry, and there is also some new information to learn or emphasize. 

You are going to begin the year with a project on atoms and compounds.  Honors students are required to complete projects each quarter so this will count as that project grade.  You will have specific tasks to complete, quizzes, worksheets and labs assigned to assess your understanding, and of course a final presentation will be required.  The project is complex and rigorous and will be graded accordingly.  Deadlines are firm and a substantial penalty will be applied for missed deadlines. 

Project Details 

Concept 1  Final Presentation:  All steps of the project work towards a final presentation.  Time will determine whether these are presented in class, but that is the goal.  The presentation may take the form of a powerpoint, slideshare, google presentation, glogster, infographic, prezi, sliderocket or any other approved presentation software/app.  The final presentation will be thorough (example, powerpoint presentations should be no less than 15 slides long) and represent largely original work.  Bottom line, projects cannot be a curation of videos and images. 

Concept  2  Learning Modules:  Learning modules will be assigned that included numerous tasks for students to complete that lead toward mastery of atomic structure content.

Concept 3  Artifacts Creation:  Students will use the learning module tasks to create different artifacts for their final presentation.  Artifacts  might include items like powerpoint slides, quotations from relevant scientists, relevant images, biographies of important scientists, video clips, audio clips, personal artwork, mind maps, and potentially many more items depending on your abilities and creativity. 

Concept 4  Classroom Marketplace:  Students will be asked to contribute a minimum of 5 artifacts to the marketplace.  These artifacts will be for “sale” in the marketplace.  Students will receive “currency” for placing items in the marketplace and will receive more currency if they sell those items to other students.  Your final presentation will contain at least 3 and no more than 5 marketplace items.  You will use your own artifacts in your presentation but you may also place up to 2 copies of any given item in the marketplace.  There cannot be more than three total copies of any single artifact.   Further, artifacts are curations of your work, not a single image or video downloaded off the internet. 

Concept 5 Know Your Strengths:  Each student needs to be aware of their strengths and post artifacts accordingly.  If you are a good writer then perhaps you wish to sell only text on the marketplace.  If you are good with powerpoint perhaps you want to put individual powerpoint slides up for sale.  If you are a good artist then you might want to create your own artwork of a scientist or an atom and  put the image on the marketplace for sell.  Maybe you want to narrate a video lesson on atomic structure., create an animoto video of atomic history or some collage of images for a topic.  You are only limited by your creativity.  You can even sell expertise on the marketplace.  You might be willing to offer either video tutorials on how to use a web app like Weebly or a face to face  tutorial on how to add animations in powerpoint.  You cannot make someone’s presentation but you can sell chunks of time to help them understand how to use software or web apps. 

LEARNING MODULE 1:  LET’S BEGIN!  :  Vocab defined, first artifact shared to marketplace.  You get 2 days for module 1. 

Step 1: Define the basic vocabulary. 

First, create an account in Quizlet.  Be sure to create the account using your gmail.  You will be making flashcards for the following terms: 

atom, element, compound, proton, neutron, electron, quark, nuclear charge, nuclear mass, atomic mass, mass number, molecule, atomos, matter, mass, volume, ions, isotopes, strong nuclear force 

Step 2:  Next, using word or a google doc, compare and contrast the following word groups: 

1) atom and compound    2) compound and molecule  3) proton, neutron and electron   4) nuclear mass and atomic mass   5) atomic mass and mass number   6) atoms and ions  7) ions and isotopes  8) atom and element 

Step 3:  Finally, make mindmaps, or use smart art in Word to create artifacts showing the

             relationships between the groups of terms in step 2. 

Step 4:  Other artifact ideas for the marketplace:

             Use a quotation maker to create interesting visuals of definitions or word groups

             Create powerpoint slides of definitions or mindmaps

             Use a game maker to insert a definition game into a presentation or website

  Use a poll like Poll Everywhere in your presentation to test the class

Step 5:  Take a quiz.  See your teacher. 

LEARNING MODULE 2:  Atomic Structure Work, Marketplace Open for business.  You will be allowed 3 days for module 2. 

Step 1:  Watch the following videos and be sure to look at the questions associated with the videos, they will give you some good information for your continuing work: 

Khan Academy Elements and Atoms     13:21 

Khan Academy Introduction to the atom  21:05 

Dogs Teaching Chemistry  1:51 

Crash Course Atomic Structure  10:04 

Complete worksheet on protons, neutrons and electrons* 

Complete the poster activity for the first 18 elements on the periodic table. 

Step 2: Go to Sophia and log into our class with the group code: XXXXXX 

Watch the atomic structure video 

Go through the Atomic Structure slide show 

Complete the guided notes for the slide show (simply scroll down from the slide show).  You can find the doc on google docs or download directly from the website and complete on your own device. 

Step 3:  Follow the link to Colorado PhET Build an Atom online.  Open the lab worksheet and follow the directions.  You will manipulate the atom and answer the required questions in the worksheet. 

Step 4:  Take a quiz.  See your teacher 

Step 5:  Create an artifact.  Make either a video tutorial on the basic structure of an atom or  make a short approximately 3-5 slide presentation on basic atomic structure.  You do not have to cover every topic for this short presentation. 

Learning Module 3:  History of the atom, Marketplace open for business.  You will be  allowed 2 days

Step 1:  Watch the following videos: 

History of the Atom 9:50

Early ideas about the atom  1:24

John Dalton  1:16

JJ Thomson   2:54

Cathode Ray  1:09

Milikan Oil Drop  1:14

Rutherford Gold Foil   :47

atomic history music video   2:53 

Step 2:  Watch this video of the modern view of the atom: 

Quantum Mechanics  6:11 

Step 3:  Create Artifacts.  Create short biographies of the following scientists: 

Democritus, Dalton, JJ Thomson, Ernest Rutherford, James Chadwick, Neils Bohr, Edwin Schrodenger 

Step 4:  Create artifacts. Use any medium you wish to show the change in the atomic model over time.  You may not cut and paste any one complete work from the internet, it must be your original work or your curation. 

Step 5:  Go to the website Dipity and create an atomic theory timeline. 


Create a comprehensive presentation on atoms and molecules.  Use the rubric to make sure you meet all the guidelines.   You may use such things as Prezi, Powerpoint, Slide Rocket, Google presentations, Glogster, Weebly, Slideshare, etc.  You should check with me to confirm your presentation choice if it is not in the list above. 

General Guidelines: 

* Appropriate presentation software/app

* Original work or curations

* 5 or more artifacts shared in the marketplace

* presentation should cover all learning modules

* 3-5 artifacts included from the marketplace that are not your own.

* As a general rule approximately 80% of the presentation should be your own work.

* Follow the rubric.  This will be graded as a test.


Adam Renfro

Adam was a classroom English teacher for ten years and began teaching online in 1998. He now works for the North Carolina Virtual Public School, the 2nd largest virtual school in the nation. Adam has blogged for Getting Smart since September of 2011.

Discover the latest in learning innovations

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.