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  • Are your students taking chemistry to the next level? (Draft)
    Do you teach chemistry to A Level, Higher or Leaving Certificate students in the UK or Ireland? If you do, we need your help with a short survey about your students' degere choices. We're seeing a downward trend in applications to study chemistry at university that isn't fully explained by any change in entries to pre-degree qualifications. We'd like ... more...
  • Why do we approve our own training courses? (Draft)
    As a professional body, we encourage all of our members to develop their technical and professional skills by undertaking continuing professional development (CPD). This can take many forms including formal, structured training courses. To help our members decide on valuable and appropriate training for their needs, we started a programme to ... more...
Overwhelmed by the available chemistry resources? Looking for new chemistry teaching ideas? Elementary Articles is the place for chemistry, education, and everything else.

Learn Chemistry websiteElementary Articles is the official blog for the RSC's Learn Chemistry - your home for chemistry education resources and activities.


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It’s been a while since I last blogged, and with good reason! I have busy putting together the RSC’s theme for 2014: Chemistry and Art.
The National Gallery Faces of Chemistry videos, which were released in January, were the first offering. These three videos each focus on a different chemical technique: microscopy, SEM-EDX and chromatography, each looking at the Portrait of Alexander Mornauer. The various techniques have been used to examine the history of the painting and discover that the blue background present when the painting was purchased by the National Gallery, London, was in fact added 300 years after the portrait was originally painted! Watch these videos find out how the scientists at the National Gallery discovered this!
Master of the Mornauer Portrait, Portrait of Alexander Mornauer, about 1464-88, oil on wood, 45.2 x 38.7 cm.  The image on the left shows the painting as it looked when it entered the collection in the early 1990s and the image on the right shows how it looks now, after cleaning. © National Gallery, London

The next release for Chemistry and Art is that of Ionic Magazine whose latest edition has been developed in collaboration with the Royal Society of Chemistry. I’ll let Ionic Magazine explain its focus:

In each issue, Ionic Magazine will publish recent scientific developments within many areas of science that include medicine, nanotechnology, biotechnology, psychology, astronomy alongside many others. These will be current in the literature, and provide a platform for science writers, whether established in their careers, just beginning or perhaps experimenting their capabilities at science communication, to rant and rave about exciting developments within their particular expertise or interests. Beside each article will lay an artist’s representation of that very story. No graph, no figure, no formulae, instead a piece of art constructed from personal interpretation and not scientific representation. They will leave the reader asking more than can be answered. The ultimate goal: a stunning and stimulating collaboration of two traditionally contrasting worlds.

This edition focuses on the recent developments in RSC journals in the field on scientific and conservation discoveries around various types of art. The stories are deftly told without the technical difficulty of the original paper and the images are intriguing representations of the written content – make of them what you will!

We are also developing new educational content of the chemistry behind art, starting with prehistoric cave paintings all the way through to Impressionism. This will be released in batches throughout the year on Learn Chemistry and eventually all will be presented through our new, coming soon, Chemistry and Art microsite! Cave art coming soon!
Throughout the year departments around the RSC will be tailoring their content to fit with the Chemistry and Art theme. Our Cambridge Science Festival and Big Bang Fair stands will be colour themed, EiC and The Mole will have articles relating to Chemistry and Art (January’s Mole already has the story of the Portrait of Alexander Mornauer) and Chemistry World will have a special issue later this year. Thursday’s monthly public lecture at Burlington House sees Helen Storey and Tony Ryan in conversation discussing their Extreme Collaboration. Sold out, it will be streamed live and available after the event – hopefully on Learn Chemistry too!

Posted by Alexandra Kersting on Mar 4, 2014 3:16 PM GMT
It is my pleasure to update Learn Chemistry with a new collection of Higher Education (HE) Resources, The Chemistry Vignettes.
These Screencasts have been provided to the Royal Society of Chemistry to support Undergraduate Learning.

The Chemistry Vignettes Project is the result of a Physical Sciences Centre, Higher Education Academy funded departmental project collaboration between the Chemistry Schools of the University of East Anglia and The University of Southampton to examine the screencasting of first year Chemistry lectures. Vignettes are short, annotated and interactive highlights from chemistry screencasts envisaged as Open Educational Resources.
The resource collection can be found here or are searchable using the key word ‘chemistry + vignettes’ at the top of the Learn Chemistry home page.
You can also view all 69 videos from our Royal Society of Chemistry YouTube playlist or the Higher Education microsite.

The advantage of viewing the Vignettes via Learn Chemistry is that they have been grouped into 15 topics and you can watch these via YouTube embed or downloadable .MP4 file.
The resource topics (in no particular order) are as follows…
·         IR Spectroscopy Theory
·         Acids and Bases
·         Mechanisms of Esters and Amides
·         NMR Theory
·         Transition Metal Fundamentals
·         Synthetic Mechanisms Advanced
·         Electrochemistry
·         Advanced Transition Metal Chemistry
·         Mechanism Theory
·         Physical Chemistry
·         Transition Metal Chemistry
·         Bonding Theory
·         Molecular Orbital Theory
·         Chemistry of the Elements
·         Advanced Physical Chemistry
Posted by Lee Page on Jan 21, 2014 6:14 PM GMT
The Royal Society of Chemistry will be exhibiting at BETT 2014. Come and visit us!

BETT 2014 is taking place at the Excel Centre, in London's Docklands. It begins tomorrow (Wednesday) and ends Saturday 25th. The show is free to attend, and is a key date in the calendar of anyone in education and technology from across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

The Learn Chemistry team will be on hand (stand C485) to walk visitors through some of the latest resource and site developments, from 70 new Gridlocks games and new Chemistry of Art videos, to interactive tools for assessment and online CPD. We'll also be sharing some of our plans for 2014, including online experimentation, updates to Higher Education Learn Chemistry, and more.

Come and say hi to Alex, Lee, Stephanie, Alex, and Duncan, and congratulate us (or commiserate with us) following the announcement on Wednesday night of the winner of the BETT award, Free Digital Content category
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Jan 21, 2014 4:49 PM GMT
As I begin planning for the new Royal Society of Chemistry, Global Experiment 2014 (watch out for it later this summer) I found myself looking back fondly over the successful experiment last year which was run 21K times all around the world. Thanks to all who participated and shared all your photos and reports.
 As a result, I do want to share one last story of the experiment from Bowen School Shibalidian of students taking part.
Also as a reminder the Experiment is still open for posting for those still wanting to take part.


 Science events ’Fun with Science’ organized by the Royal Society of Chemistry Beijing Local Section with the help of volunteers from Beijing University of Chemical Technology were on the topic of food and health. We discussed why fruit and vegetables (being packed with vitamins—especially vitamin C—and fibre) are healthier than high fat/high sugar foods like biscuits and cakes—although the students did admit they enjoyed eating the latter as well! But how do we know how much vitamin C is present in different fruits and vegetables? Take tomatoes, sweet red peppers and apples: can you guess which contains the most vitamin C? In “Fun with Science” we didn’t have to guess—we used chemistry to find out!

Armed with tincture of iodine(an antiseptic which can be bought at the local pharmacy), 30 Year 4 Bowen students set out to measure the amounts of vitamin C in weighed amounts of the tomatoes, sweet red peppers and apples. When the dark brown tincture of iodine solution is added drop by drop to a solution containing vitamin C it undergoes a chemical reaction which turns it colourless. However if the solution also contains cornstarch, when the vitamin C has all been used up the next drop of iodine solution reacts with the starch to make a dark blue–black colour.

The students had great fun mashing up their samples of fruit and vegetables to release the vitamin C and after dissolving it in water and adding starch solution, carefully counting the number of drops of tincture of iodine they had to add to the rapidly stirred solution before it went blue–black. And what was the result? They found that the apple needed slightly more drops of iodine solution than the tomato before the solution went blue–black, but the sweet red pepper needed many more drops, showing that the vitamin C content of the pepper is much higher than that of apples or tomatoes.

But although the students now knew red pepper contained the most vitamin C, they still didn’t know exactly how much—how many milligrams (mg) of vitamin C are contained in one gram (g) of fruit or vegetable. To do this they needed to react their iodine solution with what we call a “standard solution”—one containing a known amount of vitamin C. Fortunately vitamin C tablets contain exactly 1000 mg of vitamin C, so by dissolving one tablet in 1000 milliliters (mL) of water they were able to make a standard solution containing 1 mg of vitamin C in every mL of solution. 
Using this solution they could then find out find out how many mg of vitamin C correspond to each drop of iodine solution and finally calculate the amounts of vitamin C in their samples. The average results for the class were:
Tomato                     0.19 mg/g
Apple                        0.22 mg/g 
Sweet red pepper    0.72 mg/g

This was a special “Fun with Science” session because it was part of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Global Experiment for 2013. Children from hundreds of schools all around the world have carried out the same experiment and uploaded their results onto the Royal Society of Chemistry website. So now Bowen School Shibalidian is really on the map!
Every pupil who takes part in the Global Experiment and submits their data receives a certificate from the Royal
Society of Chemistry, and the Bowen students were delighted to receive theirs at the end of the experiment—just like their fellow students all over the world.
The Royal Society of Chemistry’s General Manager for China Dr. Amy Lam and Chair of the Beijing Local Section Prof. David Evans and the team of volunteers (below) presented certificates.

Posted by Lee Page on Jan 21, 2014 4:27 PM GMT
After a fabulous 2013, during which Learn Chemistry embarked on ambitious plans to advance online assessment, online experimentation, and build fascinating content partnerships, and won an award, we're looking forward to much more in 2014.

The Learn Chemistry team, and colleageus from across the Royal Society of Chemistry's Schools and Colleges team, will be attending the Association for Science Education conference 2014 in Birmingham from the 8th January.

Learn Chemistry Partnership, a project from our sister Networks team, will be the order of the day at ASE 2014. If you're visiting, make sure you say hi. If you're a teacher, register your school to be a Learn Chemistry Partner, and qualify for some great benefits.

Later in January, we'll be at BETT 2014, in the cavernous Excel Centre in London's Docklands, and we'll be crossing our fingers that we win an award this time! Come and stop by our snazzy stand if you're at BETT this year.

In the meantime, here's a nice nugget from the National Stem Centre's resource blog, on using podcasts in the classroom. Why not give their suggestions a try with some of our own podcasts for primary and secondary students.

Posted by Duncan McMillan on Jan 2, 2014 4:01 PM GMT
We are making improvements to our online experimentation microsite which I hope many of you will have seen and used (see we want the site to promote and support the best practical chemistry in new ways.

Having just completed the successful Global Experiment 2013 (a great example of Collaborative Chemistry) we are looking to do much more to develop practical experiment resources for you.

We are working on many ideas but please help us steer the development by contributing to our research now! If you could spare ten minutes please complete our online questionniare at

Lee Page and Simon Rees
Posted by Lee Page on Nov 25, 2013 2:29 PM GMT
It’s Chemistry Week! Hooray! Thanks to all who have taken part in the Global Experiment so far your participation has been amazing. It is great to follow all your experiments and contributions via twitter.


The fruit comparison data from all your experiments is ranking well compared to 'official' data which is nice to see. The effects of location, aging and cooking are a little less predictable at the moment but let’s see if this averages out with more data?
We plan to keep the experiment open so if you are unable to take part this week but like the idea of contributing please do so later.
Please also come back to the site as we plan more Collaborative Chemistry activities soon.
There is a lot more happening during Chemistry Week as we look to increase the public understanding of the importance of the chemical sciences in our everyday lives. This year the theme is health and our Local Sections, Interest Groups, Regional Coordinators and schools are putting on hundreds of events. Click here to find out more about what is going on.
Posted by Lee Page on Nov 19, 2013 12:51 PM GMT
As part of the Learn Chemistry team investigating uses of online experimentation. I wanted to share a really nice example of what can be done with an online experiment.

This is a great opportunity to help research into experimental language and memory. Please try out this new resource with your class. The experiment looks at a series of viscous liquids and allows measurement of the viscosity by remotely timing a ball as it falls through the liquids.

The research is hosted by the University of Southampton and is engaging for KS4-5 students of Chemistry or Physics. Please share this free site in your school and between departments, it would be great to have as much participation as possible.

When the experiment has been completed the experimenter is asked to create a write-up using one of three randomly selected questionnaires. The results can be printed and shared in class but are also used to aid research at Southampton to see what is remembered about the experiment and what is recorded under different circumstances.

Cerys has agreed to be the contact from the University of Southampton if there are any question on either the research or technical problems on the website itself.

Posted by Lee Page on Nov 18, 2013 2:47 PM GMT
What support can I find to support me to support practical work? 
Read on for information and advice in a guest post from SCORE Assistant Manager Jessica Douthwaite.

Despite much recent debate on the place of practical science in school curricula – one important point remains – practical work is integral to the teaching and learning of science at school.

The Council for Science and Technology recently emphasised this in a letter to Michael Gove:

“Practical laboratory work is the essence of science and should be at the heart of science learning.”

SCORE understands that teachers and technicians are as sure of the value of practical work as we are, but research conducted in 2012 and launched in May 2013, has shown us that though teachers and technicians would like to provide engaging and equitable practical science lessons for their students, many school staff are struggling to ensure that their classrooms and labs are resourced with the right equipment to do so.

This is not for lack of trying – anonymous comments highlighted problems in keeping up to date with variable equipment lists, the inability to provide sufficient quantities of equipment for deeper investigative activity amongst smaller groups of students, a lack of confidence in using some equipment in lessons, difficulties planning for long-term high cost purchases, and science taking a ‘back seat’ amongst senior leadership.

So what support is there on offer to support your practical work?!  How can you embed long-term planning into resource-buying? And how can you better inform your senior leadership team and governors about your science department spending?

 Through the Resourcing Practical Science research project, SCORE designed, tested and improved a set of primary and secondary school benchmarks working with (and building on previously published resources from) CLEAPPS, the Association for Science Education, the Gatsby Foundation and the Primary Science Teaching Trust.

We directly responded to comments like “It would be really helpful to have a guide outlining resources for practical science” and “a list of suggested essential equipment [would help] so that we could check we had got all we need”.
The SCORE benchmarks do just this by listing adequate supplies, including quantities, in several categories depending on their use in primary or secondary school. The categories are:  equipment and consumables; access to outside space; laboratory facilities; and technician staffing. These lists are a starting point for working towards an optimum level of appropriate resourcing.

We want teachers and technicians to use these in ensuring that their classrooms are stocked and prepared for practical lessons. We think that they provide an excellent basis to leverage science with senior leadership teams and budget holders. Finally we feel that once your school is appropriately resourced, you can provide the practical science experience that could really move your students’ learning and engagement forward!
Try out the benchmarks yourself by visiting SCORE benchmarks.
(For more information on the Resourcing Practical Science in schools research report visit the SCORE policy pages.)

Posted by Duncan McMillan on Nov 12, 2013 10:12 AM GMT
For the second year running, Learn Chemistry has been named finalist for a BETT Award!

BETT Award 2014 finalist!

This time around we have been shortlisted in the category 'Free digital content/Open educational resources'. We're in illustrious company, with Microsoft, Edmodo, CUP/OCR/RaspberryPi amongst others also listed. 

The awards take place during next year's BETT show, at which the Royal Society of Chemistry will be exhibiting, and talking about Learn Chemistry and all sorts of other activities and resources.

Whether or not we win, being named a finalist is recognition from one of the major education industry events. It's testament to the effort that so many who work on Learn Chemistry have made since its launch last January, from developers, project managers, and ICT support, to teachers, advisors, and educational partners.

Wish us luck for the 22nd January awards day!
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Nov 7, 2013 6:00 PM GMT
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