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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...
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    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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They belong to Christmas like turkey and mince pies: the Royal Institution (Ri) Christmas lectures. Each year they bring a touch of science straight to our living rooms.

The lectures are fantastic every year. But for us at the RSC, last year’s ones were even more special, because they focused on chemistry.

In his three lectures, Dr Peter Wothers – a chemist at Cambridge University – explored the chemistry around us. Filling the TV studio with lightning, explosions and burning flames, he looked at air, water and earth – three of the ancient Greek elements that tantalised alchemists for centuries – and the chemistry behind them. It was a fantastic display of why chemistry is fun.

But don’t worry if you missed the spectacle when the lectures were aired on the television! The RSC and our Learn Chemistry team partnered with the Ri to turn the best parts from the lectures into a set of teaching resources.
The resources are based around ten chemistry-related themes that Peter covered in his Modern Alchemist lectures. Many of them cover topics you are teaching in the classroom, such as atomic structure and the periodic table, radioactivity, climate change, the halogens and the alkali metals.

Dr Peter Wothers demonstrates the effect of altering the amount of oxygen present in the air

We have included background information, links to video clips from the lectures, questions and ideas for group discussion to help you teach these subjects. And if you or your students would like to find out more about a topic, you can easily follow the links to other Learn Chemistry resources on related topics.

We hope you enjoy using these new resources in your classes!

The Learn Chemistry team

Ps: If you haven’t seen it already, why not have a look at the Alchemy section on our Visual Elements Periodic Table?!
Posted by Richard Grandison on Apr 16, 2013 11:53 AM BST
In my role as keeper of legacy material, I have added the lengthily titled Chemical Misconceptions – prevention, diagnosis and cure. Volume II: classroom resources by Keith Taber to Learn Chemistry. This popular book has long been missing from Learn Chemistry and I hope our users will be pleased it has finally been added!

I am aiming to add a legacy resource a month, which will be advertised here on Elementary Articles and the Learn Chemistry Newsletter. If you have any requests for what to add next, comment below!
Posted by Alexandra Kersting on Mar 27, 2013 11:27 AM GMT
The Science Museum has launched an online poll to identify the top British innovations of the 20th Century.

Among the extensive list is X-ray crystallography (found right at the bottom of the voting page). The University of Leeds are championing this as William H. Bragg (the father of the father and son duo awarded the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics) held the Cavendish Chair of Physics at Leeds from 1909-15, when the key experiments involving the first crystal structure determinations and the formulation of Bragg's Law for X-ray diffraction were carried out.

Take a look at all the entries and cast your vote here. Voting ends on 25th March so you've not got long to make your vote count!

Joanna Buckley is RSC Regional Coordinator for North East England and works with the education team.
Contact her at
Posted by Joanna Buckley on Mar 20, 2013 11:55 AM GMT
Fabulous news from Friday night's Education Resources Awards ceremony at the National Motorcyle Museum near Birmingham:

Learn Chemistry has won the 2013 Education Resources Award for 'Best Secondary Resources or Equipment - Including ICT'

The Education Resources Awards complement the large annual Education show, held annually at the Birmingham NEC. 
The judges' remarks in giving the award to the RSC's hub for chemistry education recognises the effort and energy RSC Education has put into developing Learn Chemistry:

“A high quality resource using  the opportunities offered by new technologies to present interesting, engaging materials that can be flexibly used and explored. The judges thought that Learn Chemistry was an inspiring, engaging, stimulating resource that could promote higher order learning – turning potentially ‘dry’ subjects into something interesting and exciting.”

For us at RSC Education and in the Learn Chemistry team, however, ths really exciting part is that we've got so much more to make and do with Learn Chemistry.

As ever, watch this space!
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Mar 18, 2013 6:00 PM GMT
The Big Bang Fair launches Thursday 14th March, and the RSC will be there!

The Big Bang Fair, and the associated National Science and Engineering Competition, is taking place at London's Excel Centre this year. the RSC will be in attendance for the first time, and we're sponsoring the special Royal Society of Chemistry Prize!

If you're visiting the show, come and see us at stand FCS4, in the 'Farm to Fork' section. We'll have:
  • A brand new chemistry iPhone game to show off
  • Against-the-clock chemistry challenges with our Gridlocks games
  • A live investigation into sunblock creams - do they work?
  • A sporty challenge, based on our 2012 Global Experiment
  • Fascinating spectroscopy demonstrations from Imperial College
  • Careers info, and more.
As for prizes, we have been working with the organisers to reward the best young chemists with the RSC Chemistry Prize. You can get involved, with our Chemistry Challenge worksheets. RSC CEO Robert Parker will be there to reward the winner(s). Ada Yonath, legendary Nobel Prize-winning chemist, was also present*. 

We've added Chemistry Challenge information for 2013 and 2014 to Learn Chemistry - check it out there, and be inspired by astronaut and former chemist Helen Sharman, or come and visit us at Big Bang!

[*CORRECTION 18/03/2013 - I'd formerly stated that Ada Yonath would be judging the RSC prize]
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Mar 12, 2013 2:57 PM GMT
Have you ever wondered what makes the lid stay on your shampoo bottle or why your bath foams up when you add bubble bath? Well, believe it or not, the answer is chemistry! Chemistry is in action all around the bathroom; so much so that the RSC have partnered with Croda to produce a brand new, interactive resource called Chemistry in your Bathroom.

Disarray: What your bathroom might look like without Croda chemicals

Chemistry in your Bathroom is a fun flash-based interactive resource that lets you explore where Croda chemicals are found and what they do around the bathroom. Hover over different parts of the bathroom to see where specific chemicals can be found and what effect they have. You can then download the related interactive PDFs – filled with videos, animations and interactive images, which help explain the chemistry behind soapy bubbles, fluffy towels, soft skin and much more… And at the end you can take a quiz to test what you learnt!

From frizzy to straight with the help of chemicals. Move your mouse across the
virtual bathroom to find out where else chemistry is involved.

It’s the first time we have used interactive PDFs and we really like them. But we’re keen to hear what you think about them as well. So get clicking around our virtual bathroom and let us know you feedback! We look forward to it.

We hope you enjoy using Chemistry in your Bathroom!

Posted by Richard Grandison on Mar 1, 2013 1:18 PM GMT
This year, Sheffield is hosting its first ever Festival of Science and Engineering from 10th – 24th March. Months of meetings, planning and hard work have come to fruition as the Festival encompasses the hugely successful National Science and Engineering Week (NSEW).

Sheffield is rightly proud of its two Universities and the two have worked closely together, along with local museums and industry-education groups across the city to create this extravaganza of science and engineering.
Take a look at the large programme of public events on offer, catering for all ages and tastes.
NSEW is a UK-wide celebration of science and engineering, organised by the British Science Association. You can locate all NSEW activities near you here
It is a great way to get involved with promoting chemistry in your local area. So what are you waiting for?!

Joanna Buckley is RSC Regional Coordinator for North East England and works with the education team.
Contact her at
Posted by Joanna Buckley on Feb 27, 2013 10:02 AM GMT
The Royal Institution are continuing their great work inspiring the scientists of the future, following the successful chemistry-themed Christmas Lectures, supported by the RSC and featuring RSC Fellow Peter Wothers.

Ri's Katherine McAlpine has a guest post on a 'Science for Schools' event in March. Read on, and get involved!:

Our science for schools shows are jam-packed full of experiments, demonstrations and the odd explosion.

These popular talks for young people are given in our iconic theatre (the very one where the Christmas Lectures are filmed) at our headquarters in Mayfair. The sessions provide an entertaining investigation to a range of STEM subjects and really bring science to life for your students.

In this special half-day event for A level chemistry students, Andy Holding demonstrates how understanding a single reaction changed the world for ever, and Professor David Smith explores how essential chemists are to the miracles of modern medicine. Book tickets for this event.

A-Level Chemistry Day
Tuesday 19 March 2013
10.15-11.15   Alchemy and Air with Dr Andy Holding In the summer of 1909, Fritz Haber demonstrated a single chemical reaction that changed the world forever.

Join Dr Andy Holding  to find out about how he discovered the optimum conditions to produce the ammonia that produces our fertilisers, dyes, household cleaners and explosives. Bringing the Nitrogen cycle to life, this entertaining and demonstration-rich talk will look at the implications that a scientific formula can have on the world.
11.15-11.30  Comfort Break
11.30-12.30 Professor Dave's Amazing Molecules-Chemistry and the Human Body Professor David Smith aims to convince you that as important as doctors and nurses are to saving lives, without chemists, they would not be able to perform many of the miracles of modern medicine. 

By using demonstrations and audience participation, we will explore some intriguing biologically active molecules and discover how chemists can go about creating new drugs.
Tickets are £3 per person. Book here:

Posted by Duncan McMillan on Feb 18, 2013 5:36 PM GMT
Can you say what you do using only the ten hundred most common words in English? A blog inspired by the XKCD 'Up-Goer Five' image asks research scientists to do exactly that, using a clever text editor to spot any unacceptably uncommon words.

Whilst not a research scientist, I thought I'd try to say what it is I do with Learn Chemistry, using the same limited vocabulary:

I help people who are learning about the little bits in everything and what they do; everything from hot part of a fire, to the always-warm rocks in the ground, to the water that we drink, and the glass on our phones.

These people can be old or young, good or bad at learning, but they all want to know more about those little bits - how they work, how to see them, how to make them, how to break them up, how to join them to other things, and so on.

I work with bright people who try to build a better place for these people to learn, share ideas and know more about the little bits of everything. This place is a kind of big room, and everyone, in any place, can look through their own window into the room, to find the things they need to help them.

Maybe, if we do our jobs well, people will want to know more about the little bits of everything after they leave little school, or leave big school, or even when they go to work; and everyone will know a little bit more about how the world works, and all the parts that make it up.

Posted by Duncan McMillan on Feb 11, 2013 12:55 PM GMT
Recently I rediscovered the RSC Interactive Lab Primer. Developed 5 years ago by RSC Teacher Fellows as part of the Chemistry for our Future project, the site is a goldmine of information regarding practical chemistry, techniques and lab safety. Each of the main sections: working safely, lab techniques, lab apparatus and reference material has information to address the diverse range of experience and skills students bring with them to university by offering a resource to support their transition from school to university chemistry.

We are slowly adding the individual parts of the site to Learn Chemistry, but when you see the site, you'll see what a mammoth task it is! We have started with some of the videos, which can be found here.

My favourite parts are the animations (column chromatography, for example) within the lab techniques which show, along with explanations, how any particular technique works; and the reference material, particularly common conversions as it will hopefully alleviate some of those easy to make conversion errors we’ve all made!

There are also video explanations that talk you through how a technique is carried out (IR spectroscopy) or how to assemble apparatus.

Of course, safety is even more important at university once the transition from school has been made, due to so much more responsibility being placed on the individual. From personal protection equipment being explained to handling glassware safely, so much important information can be found in one place. It’s a wonder we ever survived practical chemistry without it!

Posted by Alexandra Kersting on Feb 6, 2013 1:45 PM GMT
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