Overwhelmed by the available chemistry resources? Looking for new chemistry teaching ideas? Elementary Articles is the place for chemistry, education, and everything else.

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

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Today sees the release of the latest Faces of Chemistry videos. These most recent videos, in partnership with BOC, focus on the separation of air through fractional distillation...

and the use of the separated gases in food packaging and freezing food.

Filmed in Thame, Oxfordshire, with Keith Nicholson (an applications engineer) and Sarah Martin-Law (chemistry graduate now working in the marketing department) these videos also give a look at career progression and show the wide possibilities of a career in chemistry.

The 11+ video focuses on the composition of the air, cleaning it before separating it into its constituent gases and looking at how those gases are delivered around the country. The 14+ video looks in detail at fractional distillation and the 16+ film investigates the importance of freezing food properly.

What is Faces of Chemistry?
For those of you who aren’t already in the know, Faces of Chemistry is an exciting series of videos from the RSC, aimed at students aged 11-19. The videos give insight into real-life applications of chemistry and highlight the latest cutting-edge research involved in making new products and technologies. Produced in collaboration with leading chemical companies and academic institutes, Faces of Chemistry also showcases the diversity of professional careers available to students of chemistry. Other videos include biosensors (Queen Mary’s University, London), organic solar cells (BASF) and hair colourants (Procter & Gamble).
Posted by Alexandra Kersting on Jun 20, 2012 3:02 PM BST
94 Elements is: "A global filmmaking project exploring our lives through the lens of the elements, from Hydrogen to Plutonium." If you're interested, you've got a week left to get involved and fund an elemental film.

94 Elements

Mike Paterson, the brains behind 94 Elements, is looking for crowdsourced funding through his Indiegogo campaign page, at http://www.indiegogo.com/94elements

You can get involved by pledging anything from $10, up (the site is US-based, but Paterson is UK-based). With your pledge you can score a laser-cut element wood block, an ampoule of a pure element (save one or two of the hairier ones...), lovely element-inspired screen prints, and more.

Paterson clearly knows that stories can be a powerful way of getting across the science behind an idea as fundamental as the periodic table of elements. The films he plans to make for 94 Elements will focus on those stories.

With our successful, and snazzy, Visual Elements Periodic Table we also know that stories are key to engaging students.

One of the most popular features of the site, which we've demonstrated to hundreds of teachers and students at various events, is a panel which allows you to view the elements known to science in any particular year. Even an eight-year-old student can see that in the year of her birth the periodic table was different to how it is now.

The periodic table is a living document, and a testament to centuries of discovery, something we'll be highlighting in a forthcoming version of our site. Not even three weeks ago elements 114 and 116 officially became Flerovium and Livermorium, prompting spontaneous parties in academic poster printing companies.

Check out Mike's Indiegogo page if you want to get involved in producing some exciting new periodic table films, and register for our Learn Chemistry updates if you want to keep abreast of everything we're up to: Visual Elements Periodic Table, resource development, outreach, competitions, and more...
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Jun 19, 2012 6:10 PM BST
You might recall that the RSC held a competition at the 2012 Cambridge Science Festival in late March: “What’s the most demanding Olympic sport?” ahead of the launch of the RSC's Chemistry in the Olympics website linking science and sport. Festival goers could enter by writing their answers on a giant fluorescent post-it note with a justification for that sport. We had over 200 entries and some fantastic answers.

We picked Toby Lock’s answer of the marathon as the winner, which had the justification of “because you have to be really fit and need to be able to know how fast to go and control your breathing. You need to be physically and mentally fit and you need to have good endurance too”.

Last Friday, Toby (who is 11, almost 12) came down to Thomas Graham House with his younger brother, Oscar (who is 7½), and parents to collect his prize of £100 worth of vouchers and a certificate from RSC president Professor David Phillips. 

“I’m really happy to win the competition because I put effort into my answer,” said Toby. “I got to meet the president of the Society, which was a really good experience because he’s such a prestigious member of society.”

It was a fantastic day, and really good to meet the family and find out more about them. The kids were so bright! Toby actually wants to be a baseball player when he’s older and is a massive Red Sox fan but if he can’t do that then he wants to be a RAF pilot, which brings us back to science.

During their visit, Toby and Oscar were looking at Learn Chemistry. Toby was very impressed with the Visual Elements Periodic Table temperature sliding bar and the amount of information that you can find on each element. He said that he would be telling his older brothers, who are revising for GCSEs and AS‑levels, about it. Oscar also liked the imagery for the different elements. The Global Experiment was also something the family on the whole were interested in taking part in and will be writing to their schools to ask them to take part.

From left to right: Jo Lock (mum), David Phillips, Toby Lock (winner), Oscar Lock (younger brother) and Andrew Lock (father)

Toby’s family is actually from Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, and both parents are non-scientists but they make the two-hour journey every year to attend the Cambridge Science Festival. Toby’s mum, Jo, told me that the reason they go is because they really see the value in it and how inspirational it is to youngsters. Toby added: “We like to come to the science festival every year because we like to learn new and exciting things in a fun and educational way.” This just goes to show how much people of all ages and backgrounds value science festivals, which we actually blogged about this earlier in the year: Why do we love science festivals? 
We also chatted to the Lock family about how important it is to have an inspirational teacher, especially during key stage 4. However, many science teachers at this level have only specialised in biology, physics, or chemistry. They are not confident teaching the other sciences, tending to stick very closely to the curriculum, and without enthusiasm - and the pupils can really see this. The RSC has developed a course called “Chemistry for non-specialists” exactly for this reason, to enhance the teaching experience for the teacher and the students. You can find all of the resources to support this course here, amongst the thousands of student and teacher resources that can be found on Learn Chemistry.
Posted by Samantha Cheung on Jun 11, 2012 3:55 PM BST
All RSC Regional Coordinators support Initial Teacher Training (ITT) students in their region. We recognise that supporting the next generation of chemistry teachers is key to maintaining and bolstering enthusiasm amongst students.

After speaking to this year's cohort at Leeds University, I was contacted a few months later by David. David has the unenviable task of launching A Level chemistry in September, in his first ever teaching post! He has to choose (amongst other things) the exam board, the scheme of work and what equipment to buy to help support the teaching of chemistry in the school.

Leeds University

The advice and support that has been offered to David through the RSC has proved invaluable. I spoke to a couple of experienced teachers who offered advice, I suggested local education activities and joining a local teacher network too, which I am involved with. David also posted his question on Talk Chemistry. The response from experienced group members has been fantastic and shows the power of this online community. Thanks to everyone who commented, please read his post and add your views. And please post questions and remarks in general on Talk Chemistry - your comments are so significant.
Posted by Joanna Buckley on Jun 1, 2012 3:18 PM BST
In my role as Regional Coordinator for North-West England like Linsey (who posted earlier this month) I visit many educational events and competitions in my region.  Before this role I was already a very active STEM ambassador taking part in the Manchester Science Festivals and other events, including BBC’s Wallace and Gromit World of Invention Roadshow.  
The other week I was able to combine my RSC role with my experience of science festivals at the BBC’s Bang Goes the Theory LIVE in Sheffield. 

The team of reprobates, you see above (led by Leanne) ran the RSC stand, alongside  the Institute of Physics, the Society of Biology, and the Wellcome Trust’s ‘In the Zone’ Olympic Games-inspired initiative. The RSC stand had volunteers eager to pass on their passion for chemistry to the general public.  
We demonstrated the importance of oxygen to reactions, floated bubbles on CO2, and showed how two compounds with seemingly little or no difference in structure can have very different smells.  
When these simple experiments were explained to the general public they could physically see that CO2 is heavier than air, due to the air bubbles floating on top of the layer of CO2 produced by the dry ice at the bottom of the container.

I think science busking highlights that an experiment can, like a picture, say a thousand words, but stay with you for longer and help break down the perception that all science is hard and impossible to understand.  
With this in mind, and given the falling number of experiments being conducted in schools, the RSC are trying to increase the confidence of chemistry teachers by providing the Chemistry for Non-Specialists and NQT CPD courses and making available over a hundred of the course experiments on the Learn Chemistry website, including all the health and safety notes.  
If you just want to do some experiments at home why not have a go at the Global Experiment, and if you’re in the Poole area this Saturday, Sunday and Monday (2nd, 3rd and 4th June) head along to the final Bang Goes the Theory LIVE roadshow of 2012 at the Lighthouse. 

Kat Presland is RSC Regional Coordinator for North West England and works with the education team. Contact her at katayune.presland@manchester.ac.uk 
Posted by Katayune Presland on May 31, 2012 11:53 AM BST
With the recent synthesis of Olympicene – the molecule with a very familiar structure – we have been promoting the links between chemistry and sport through our Chemistry in the Olympics site, featuring our 2012 Global Experiment and some speedy Year 5 students.

The Global Experiment provides the opportunity for students to learn about the chemistry behind sports drinks, and explore the central role that chemistry plays in our everyday lives, including in sports and our health.
We have just launched a new video introducing the global experiment with the help of Year 5 students from Dunmow St Mary’s Primary School.


We filmed the Global Experiment with help from Chris, from Knuckle TV, and it was great to work with the Dunmow St Mary’s students as they investigated the effects of sports drinks on physical performance. The afternoon started with making a sports drink from water, squash, sugar and salt. The class was then asked which group (sports drink or control) would run the 100 metres faster. The vast majority thought the sports drink would give them an extra boost!

They then went to find out. All of them ran 100 metres after consuming the drinks and recorded the results. Back in the classroom they calculated the average time for each group, upload their results onto our website, and pinned their location onto the interactive Global Experiment map. After uploading the results, the teacher started a discussion around why one group was faster than the other by asking the following questions:
  • What happens when you exercise?
  • What is in a sports drink, and When do athletes actually drink them?
It was great to see such enthusiasm from the students, they were really keen to get mixing the sports drink and running the 100 metres. This approach to learning by application meant that the kids were understanding in a very short space of time and you could genuinely see their levels of excitement!

The Students from Dunmow are very much looking forward to going back to the website in the run up to London 2012 to compare their results with others across the world, and to see if they came to the same conclusion about the effects of sports drinks on running 100 metres.


For full instructions on how to get involved please check out the Global Experiment webpage.
Posted by Ruth Neale on May 28, 2012 4:18 PM BST

We've turned a corner with Learn Chemistry. See if you can spot the difference between the site as of Sunday and the site as of today.

It took Google years to remove 'beta' from their email service. It's taken us four months (see our logo at the top of the page). But we're not bragging, there's a lot more to do to make Learn Chemistry your home for chemistry education, and yesterday's update wasn't simply a cosmetic one:

  • We've made filtering resources and narrowing down your searches more powerful. When you browse or search Learn Chemistry you can use the panel at left to filter the resources under a variety of headings. With our latest update you can zoom into the subject or context of the resource. Look out for the 'Refine Search' buttons.  
Click these to bring up a menu (see right).

Use the '+' and '-' icons to expand or contract any list. Click the check boxes to select a context or subject.

The number of resources available is shown in brackets alongside each heading. When you click a check box the search will re-load with a new list of resources.

The age, audience, context, and subject filters that you've selected are shown at the top of the page. Click the 'x' buttons to remove a filter and re-load the search.

As a certain meerkat might say: 'simples!'.
  • We've also added a feedback form. The form will very soon start to show up when you visit a Learn Chemistry page for the first time. We plan to start systematically collecting feedback from our users to inform future developments.
  • We've standardised our icons to indicate resources for teaching or learning.
  • Following feedback from our users, we've shortened the 'also of interest' and 'related resources' links in each resource page.
  • We've fixed a bug with some of our flash resource links.

Let us know, as ever, what you think of the changes either in the comments below, or via the official Learn Chemistry mailbox: learn-chemistry@rsc.org.

Posted by Duncan McMillan on May 22, 2012 11:06 AM BST
The RSC has just hosted a visit by Jim Paice, MP for South East Cambridgeshire and Minister of State for Agriculture and Food. He has met with our colleagues in the Science Team to discuss the importance of agricultural science and how the UK can be a leader in soil science.

When he came to speak to the Education Team, we gave him a whistle stop tour of Learn Chemistry and in particular to our Faces of Chemistry: Crop Protection videos and the newly launched Challenging Plants resources. He admired the website and the resources and agreed that they would raise awareness of the application of the science involved in optimising crops growth, as well as lawns at home!

These resources are all part of the RSC roadmap to show the importance of how chemistry touches every aspect of your life!
Posted by Alexandra Kersting on May 11, 2012 4:39 PM BST
We've just launched brand new Faces of Chemistry videos in collaboration with Queen Mary, University of London sponsored by ESPRIT.

The videos investigate the role of two chemists, Dr Anna Spehar-Deleze and Dr Salzitsa Anastasova-Ivanova, who work in the material science laboratory at QMUL. They develop and use biosensors to help athletes improve their performance.

The videos give you exclusive, behind the scenes access to the sport performance research which is carried out in their lab. It was great to see how cutting-edge chemistry research translates into real-life applications in the sporting world.  London 2012 is just around the corner and these videos explore the importance of chemistry in sports performance.

In one day we got to film the development of a biochemical profile of an athlete from the information collected from the biosensors. The sensors were inserted into tissue and measured analytes in sweat and blood before, during and after exercise. The information provided can help construct individualised training programmes and even recovery strategies when an athlete is injured.

It will be no coincidence this summer that new records and personal bests will be broken at the London 2012 Olympic Games in no small part to the work done by Anna and Salzitsa.

Check out the new Faces of Chemistry - Biosensor videos
Posted by Ruth Neale on May 9, 2012 5:05 PM BST
We've just launched a new set of physical chemistry resources - Challenging Plants - created with the support of Reckitt Benckiser.

With nearly a hundred videos, worksheets, handouts, presentations, and experiments, Challenging Plants is a great resource for gifted and talented students and any students exploring the chemistry of plant life.
Posted by Duncan McMillan on May 4, 2012 9:41 AM BST
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