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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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. Cerys.Willoughby@soton.ac.uk

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
Another missive on our ongoing work, this time to report on two landmarks in Learn Chemistry's development in the last week:
  • Learn Chemistry saw its millionth user! We don't know the person's name, nor can we reward their numerical fortune, but we're proud nonetheless. We're ahead of our own targets for getting Learn Chemistry to more people in more places around the globe.​
  • Learn Chemistry got an RSC new-brand polish. On Wednesday we released an update which you can see all over the site. The changes included:
    • A lovely new purple RSC-brand masthead, with updated Learn Chemistry image (we have lost our beloved 'splat'
    • An update to our Periodic Table. We've simplified the title to 'Periodic Table'.
    • A clean and consistent menu system
    • A fix to our online experimentation page to make the list of experimental resources really 'pop' with their cover images.
Let us know what you think, and how we might continue to improve the site. There are more changes coming this autumn and winter, including some fairly substantial updates to look forward to...

Posted by Duncan McMillan on Nov 4, 2013 10:37 AM GMT
I am really pleased to be sharing the exciting plans of Dr David Glowacki's Chemistry Education by Danceroom Spectroscopy. The Royal Society of Chemistry has sponsored David to produce chemistry education content pitched at year-9 curriculum. This material is delivered as an outreach activity using his wonderfully engaging danceroom Spectroscopy (dS) technology.

Chemistry Education at dancerrom Spectroscopy

About the technology: Using multiple Microsoft Kinect cameras in a dome environment dS is the world’s first immersive chemical dynamics framework. Combining rigorous physical chemistry, high-performance computing, and interactive video game technology, it allows people to literally step into a chemical dynamics simulation and control molecular behaviour using their real-time motion.

On the 24th-26th October; David will be implementing phase I of the education programme covering topics like atmospheric molecular structure, solid/liquids/gases and molecular vibrations. This will be presented as 10min tutor groups followed by dance interventions which will physically communicate the dynamic differences and energy transfers to the student as they move around the dome. This video highlights the potential of the dS

As part of the sponsorship the Royal Society of Chemistry plans to utilise some of the captured video footage as an education resource for incorporation into Learn Chemistry. We will also look to develop the existing dS software framework into a tool for use directly in schools. There are also future live events planned at the London Barbican in March 2014 and the London Science Museum in April/May 2014.
Posted by Lee Page on Oct 18, 2013 5:06 PM BST
Learn Chemistry is continuing to grow and a new approved resource has just been added;

The Great Recovery is an RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) project which launched in September 2012 supported by Technology Strategy Board and key industrial players. The videos in this resource were produced as part of the project and are both high quality, thought provoking general interest clips.

The Great Recovery introduces students to the idea of wastage and how it can be reduced through more efficient product design. The clips could be used to stimulate discussions and ideas for the future when discussing recycling or Green chemistry.
Posted by Stephanie Musson on Oct 11, 2013 2:57 PM BST
A great new update to Learn Chemistry went live this week. You may have noticed it, but here are the details:
  • We’ve enhanced the Higher Education area for Learn Chemistry. The site now has five key areas: Resources, Careers, Conferences, Finances, and Courses/Policy/Data. The Industry and work placements section also has a neat little interactive map for locating your university industrial placement coordinator.
  • Search results on Learn Chemistry now have something called ‘infinite scroll’. This means that when you get a long search result you don’t have to click ‘next’ for each page of results, but instead just scroll down and the results automatically appear.
  • Learn Chemistry now supports Vimeo. We know that YouTube is blocked by many schools, and some of the excellent chemistry resources we feature are available only on Vimeo.
Go forth and explore. And if you've not yet considered taking part in our health-themed 2013 Global Experiment, do!

Posted by Duncan McMillan on Oct 4, 2013 3:39 PM BST

I am pleased to share with you the launch of the Global Experiment 2013: It would be great to have as many schools and families take part as possible worldwide! Take part now.


The experiment is open now for data entry and allows you to analyse the levels of vitamin C in a variety of foods. The experiment tests multiple scientific skills like averaging data, error analysis and data interpretation. You can simply test two food groups and upload that data, or look in depth from four different experiments to see the effect of cooking, aging and location (grown) on vitamin C levels.

We have carefully designed the experiment so it can be completed at home or in school. The use of materials widely available in supermarkets, pharmacies or Amazon using simple kitchen equipment we hope gives the experiment wide appeal.

We have also launched a new Chemistry in Health themed microsite. It contains many useful links to education resources and the global experiment itself.
Please visit the site located in the ‘More’ menu on the navigation bar in Learn Chemistry.

The Global Experiment is the most engaging way to take part in the celebration of chemistry and health. This year’s Chemistry week is from the 16th-23rd of November so please plan your activities in advance and take advantage of all there is on offer.


Posted by Lee Page on Sep 16, 2013 3:20 PM BST
Students (and maybe even teachers) may dread the return to school in September. But for us working on Learn Chemistry it's something we've been anticipating since the northern hemisphere summer began back in June.

These usually lazy months have been industrious ones here at the Royal Society of Chemistry. Here's just a flavour of what you can expect from us during the coming days, weeks, months, and the rest of the school year:

- Online experiments. We're following up our successful 2011 water pH global experiment, and our Olympic-themed 2012 investigation, with the Chemistry of Health-themed Vitamin C global experiment for 2013. Around all that, we'll be launching the first phase in our plans to support and promote experimentation in all its forms - online and off.
- New Brand, new Learn Chemistry. The Royal Society of Chemistry has a refreshed brand - including logo, design, and brand identity. We'll be splashing this around our handsome Learn Chemistry site before long.
- HE Learn Chemistry update. With guidance from our Higher Education and Industry team colleagues, we've refreshed and enhanced our pages devoted to HE.
- Hundreds more resources. Available right now: loads more 'legacy' RSC resources, new collaborations with ABPI and Edinburgh's The Solar Spark, new Periodic Table videos, clips from Peter Wothers' lecture DVD series, additions to Mechanism Inspector, and more...
- One for the wall. We've updated our exceedingly popular Periodic Table wallchart. With bold new colours and design the chart will have both a fun Visual Elements side (with images supplied by Murray Robertson) and a more functional, but no less colourful, side.
- More support for students. Learn Chemistry will be featuring more and more material to help secondary students build their study and thinking skills, plus resources from our ChemNet network.
- A spit and polish. We'll be updating our homepage and improving the way users experience Learn Chemistry and find resources specific to their needs.
- Assess to impress. Some new developments to support student asessments, with hundreds of questions developed for our resources over the years, plus some new material.

This is all I have on the back of my proverbial napkin for the moment. Have a look around Learn Chemistry, and whether you're new to the site, or here for the first time let us know what you think, using the feedback link on every Learn Chemistry page.

Sign up to our newsletter updates to get the latest, every month, on Learn Chemistry and RSC Education activities to support learning or teaching.
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Sep 4, 2013 1:13 AM BST
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