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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Questions are today being raised about A-levels not equipping students with appropriate maths skills. Unsurprisingly, this extends across the sciences - chemistry, physics and biology, but also to business studies, computing, economics, geography, psychology and sociology. For example, It was found the amount of maths based questions were as low as 0-2% across all biology awarding organisations. Also, some maths concepts were included in science exams which did not follow logically on from GCSE maths.

The report from SCORE (Science Community Representing Education) also noted a disparity across exam boards of the proportion of the assessments that required the use of maths.  A significant amount of the maths requirements put in place by Ofqual were either not assessed or if they were, it was often in a very limited way.

The RSC has long been championing maths support for chemists. The RSC Education Discover Maths for Chemists website brings together resources from a variety of other platforms and is searchable from both a mathematical and chemical perspective. Recently checked for functionality and links, Discover Maths for Chemists is newly refreshed! The search function enables students to link together concepts and topics from both maths and chemistry to find worksheets, video tutorials and interactive quizzes applicable to their need. By using the Discover Maths for Chemists resource students can see what is expected of them if they go on to study chemistry at university - something that seems to be lacking from today's exam boards.
Posted by Alexandra Kersting on Apr 27, 2012 10:14 AM BST
Learn Chemistry launches brand new videos in collaboration with BASF showcasing cutting-edge research on organic photovoltaics.

Organic photovoltaics are a hot research area at the moment, and they are the theme of our latest instalment to the Faces of Chemistry collection. We have teamed up with the global chemical company BASF to produce a new set of videos on organic photovoltaics (organic solar cells).

Filmed in Ludwigshafen (Germany), Dr Ingmar Bruder, Project Team Leader and the star of the show, tells us how organic solar cells work and where we could find them in the future. One application that Ingmar and his team have been working on is integrating organic solar cells onto the rooftop of Daimler’s new Smart Forvision concept car. With BASF’s expertise in producing dyes, Ingmar and his team created a new dye-class which converts the sunlight’s energy into electrical energy – powering the multimedia and ventilation system in the car. Find out more by watching the videos.

Ingmar is a natural actor in these videos! In fact, we were so impressed, we wanted to produce a teaser video in German too! So if you want to test your German then why not watch our video in German, ‘Gesichter der Chemie’.

Dr Ingmar Bruder discussing the design of an organic solar cell

Not only are these videos valuable from an educational point of view, they also highlight where chemistry can take you in the future. If I was still working in a lab, this is exactly the sort of work I would want to be doing!

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 catalysts (Johnson Matthey), crop protection products (Syngenta) and hair colourants (Procter & Gamble).

We hope you enjoy these videos and be sure to watch the space for more Faces of Chemistry videos in the coming months.
Posted by Richard Grandison on Apr 19, 2012 4:56 PM BST
Learn Chemistry is still just a young thing, but already people are saying "Haven't you grown!" and pinching its cheek. Read on for the latest changes to the RSC's home for chemistry education resources.               

Today, 16th April, a new Learn Chemistry homepage went live.

In our ongoing efforts to make Learn Chemistry your one-stop-shop for chemistry education resources and activities we've given the front of our site a spit and polish, adding functions and links to make it easier for teachers and students of chemistry to find what they're looking for from RSC Education.

If you've not already seen our new site, go now to www.rsc.org/learn-chemistry. [hint: if you still see the old site, hit ‘refresh’ on your browser, or ‘F5’ if on a PC]. We’ve been beavering away behind the scenes to bring you the following improvements:
  • A new homepage, featuring:
    • Simpler resource browse and search panels, including top 5 resources.
    • Links to RSC Education activities, teacher training, and careers advice pages
    • Links to related RSC websites and our popular Chemistry World and Education in Chemistry magazines.
  • Speedier search and browse. Pages load faster and results come quicker.
  • Cleverer search. You’ll no longer have to type a search phrase in speechmarks if you want to prioritise a resource with that exact name or description.
  • A home for Faces of Chemistry. Faces of Chemistry, one of our top resource sets, now has its own page, on which you can browse all the video resources. New videos from BASF will be added very soon!
  • New error pages. You’ll get a softer landing if we have no resources, or you stumble upon a broken page in Learn Chemistry.
  • System maintenance updates. You’ll get prior warning on the homepage when large changes are about to go live.
As always, let us know what you think. Email us at learn-chemistry@rsc.org, with feedback, problems, compliments or complaints!

We'll use your feedback over the next month to continue to make improvements, and sometime soon Learn Chemistry will come of age, discard its training wheels, and lose its 'Beta' tag. Watch this space...
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Apr 16, 2012 2:14 PM BST
100 years on: New ChemNet competition aims to find out how chemistry is linked with Titanic tragedy

One hundred years ago, on April 10th 1912, the first ever ‘unsinkable’ passenger liner left the port of Southampton on her maiden voyage – the RMS Titanic. But even the especially designed watertight compartments could not prevent the outcome of the tragic collision with an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean only four days later. This Sunday marks the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic following this collision.  

To commemorate the tragic event, the last few weeks have seen – amongst other activities – a memorial cruise on the MS Balmoral that retraces the steps of the Titanic’s first and only voyage and the re-launch of James Cameron’s romantic disaster film ‘Titanic’ in 3D. But even if you do not fancy watching Kate and Leo, you can still join in on ‘Titanic’-related activities because we have made the sinking of the passenger liner the theme of this month’s ChemNet competition.

ChemNet is the RSC network for 16-18 years old chemistry students, and every month we pose a chemistry-related question to our ChemNet discussion group members. So what does a sinking ship have to do with chemistry, you might wonder? To keep it simple: a whole lot more than you think. Because without chemistry, there would be no icebergs. And therefore this month’s question is:

“If water behaved as almost all other liquids do when they freeze, we would not have icebergs. Why does water behave differently when it freezes?”

If you are a chemistry student between 16 and 18 years old, we want to hear your answers. To enter, please email your responses to chemnet@rsc.org by Monday 30th April. The winning answer will be selected by our Dr ChemNet experts.

Last month we asked our ChemNet members ‘What is chemistry?’ ‘That’s simple!‘ you say? Maybe not so much so, when you start thinking of all the things that chemistry encompasses and having to describe it in less than 50 words. But our members didn’t let us down and surprised us with some very thoughtful and creative answers. To find out what the winning answers by Thomas Sayer, Timothy Little and Sophie Jones were, just take a look at the ChemNet discussion group.
Posted by Richard Grandison on Apr 13, 2012 11:37 AM BST
We've just launched our 'Chemistry in the Olympics' website and global experiment.

The site went live earlier today, featuring information and data entry pages for our global experiment, and dozens of resources exploring chemistry in sport. The global experiment will test the effects of sports drinks on athletic performance and encourage participation in students of all ages. Children in school and at home are encouraged to take part, ideally before the start of this year's London Olympics!

Alistair Brownlee, twice world champion triathlete and former chemistry student, introduces our global experiment site and talks about the role chemistry played in his own education and how chemistry is vital to his sport.

Visit our Global Experiment page at www.rsc.org/sport and get involved!
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Mar 29, 2012 12:41 PM BST
As we at the RSC prepare for Cambridge Science Festival (12 – 25 March 2012) I ask…why do we love science festivals? Surely everyone interested in science will already be sold on it and those not into science will shied away from them.

A recent poll by researchers for the Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair found two-thirds of parents struggled to answer their children’s science questions on a daily basis. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that a great opportunity for both parent and child to investigate, experiment and learn together?

Of course, I believe that science festivals are great. What’s not to love about children and eventually adults getting themselves elbow deep in slime? Of gently being introduced to science they hadn’t even thought of? In making science far less scary than it might seem at school (or seemed at school). Stimulating young minds to observe and explain the world around them can only be a good thing. And if this means parents can’t answer their children’s questions, then so be it.

Science festivals can be a great way not only to encourage everyone of all ages to think about science, but also to learn the answers together. The activities demonstrated have been chosen to inspire questions and the people demonstrating them are knowledgeable about not only the subject at hand, but many other things. These people are at your fingertips...use them!
Posted by Alexandra Kersting on Mar 13, 2012 4:38 PM GMT
We don't stand still here at Learn Chemistry Towers.
Following customer feedback and a general desire to keep on improving, we've updated the way we display the chemistry resources search listing and individual resource pages.

You'll notice the changes straightaway, when you click either learning or teaching resources from the Learn Chemistry homepage.

We've adjusted the resource type and topic listings at left, and cleaned up the resource panels in the search results. On individual resource pages we've used the same style to make the page easier on the eye and simpler for the user to pick out key information or access resource files and links.

As ever, let us know what you think, via Talk Chemistry, or by email to: learn-chemistry@rsc.org.

UPDATE (28/02/2012): Some of our users are seeing apparently broken resource listings pages - without boxes, borders, or any formatting. This is because their computers have 'cached' versions of the resource pages that the computer is trying, and failing, to load.

The solution is simple: click 'refresh' or hit 'F5' (on a PC) to reload the page. This should clear the 'cached' information and show the page as it was really meant to be shown. Sincere apologies if this has caused any confusion.
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Feb 28, 2012 10:29 AM GMT
ChemNet - Talk Chemistry's sister network for secondary chemistry students - have launched a new competition to find the answer to the thorny question:

"What is chemistry?"

The winners will each bag a £25 Amazon gift card for the best answers to the question in 50 words or fewer.

To enter, students must post their answers to this question in the “Win £25 Amazon gift cards: “What is Chemistry?” competition thread on ChemNet. (http://my.rsc.org/groups/forums/viewtopic/288/435/2416)

To qualify, participants must be a student aged 16-18 studying Chemistry and answers must be 50 words or fewer. Entries will be judged by our Dr ChemNet experts.

Entries must be posted by Friday 23rd March

[Note that students will need to log in with their MyRSC usernames. If they are not yet ChemNet or MyRSC members, then sign them up!]

Posted by Duncan McMillan on Feb 27, 2012 9:31 AM GMT
The august and ancient Royal Society have mentioned our fabulous Learn Chemistry in their latest newsletter.

The Royal Society

I don't need to say much more than quote the news piece in full:

The Royal Society of Chemistry's new one-stop-shop for chemistry resources, Learn Chemistry, was launched last month. Containg [sic.] around 3000 resources for students and teachers, Learn Chemistry has been shaped and developed in response to user feedback, and will continue to be updated with teachers' suggestions. There is even a wiki section for you to upload and share your own resources. Find out more at: http://www.rsc.org/learn-chemistry/

I might only add that we're not yet up to 3000 resources and substance pages, but we're getting there...!

Posted by Duncan McMillan on Feb 24, 2012 4:54 PM GMT
Nobelprize.org, the official home of, well, the Nobel Prizes, has an interesting selection of education resources, all free.

The resources page goes heavier on the physics and medicine side of things, but feature some nice, if twee, interactive chemistry games - notably on chirality and thermoplastics. It's hard to know what age or ability level these are targeted at, but the site is worth a look.

It does seem they've missed a trick in not having a Nobel Noble Gases resource. As ever, one must turn instead to Learn Chemistry....

[Thanks to Amanda, from RSC Education, for the tip]
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Feb 20, 2012 4:36 PM GMT
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