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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Henry VIII’s flag, the Mary Rose, has had a new museum open in Portsmouth today. The ship that sank in 1545 was discovered in 1971, and finally raised from the seabed in 1982 watched live on television in front of an estimated 60 million people worldwide.  

The ship has been reconstructed just yards from where it was originally built. After resurfacing from the depths of The Solent, it was sprayed with water continuously until 1994 and then polyethylene glycol, a type of wax, in order to help preserve it. It will take 4 years to dry using air tubes in a ‘hot box’. Until then, the public will be able to view the wreck through windows.
In 2004, the RSC teamed up with the Mary Rose Trust, V&A Museum and the British Museum to produce the book Conservation chemistry – an introduction. The book is in three sections; each one led by a museum and discusses the chemistry behind the conservation of wood, plastics and stone, respectively. These sections can each be found on Learn Chemistry or purchased as the whole book from our bookstore.

The book shows how chemical techniques are used in conserving objects made from a wide variety of materials and seeks to introduce some of the ethical considerations of conservation to students. We hope this book will encourage teachers and students alike to see the chemical context of the most unlikely scenarios.
Posted by Alexandra Kersting on May 30, 2013 10:44 AM BST
As the end of May draws near (where has the time gone?) it is time for the latest legacy resource to be added to Learn Chemistry. At the request of David Everett, active member of the Talk Chemistry forum, the pithily titled In Search of Solutions: Some ideas for chemical egg races and other problem solving activities in chemistry is now available to view on Learn Chemistry. Searchable by individual tasks or as the whole book, it “provides teachers with a useful resource of chemically-based problem solving activities, egg race style experiments and further ideas for use in the classroom - all of which highlight the fun of chemistry”.

In Search of Solution is a collection of challenges, also known as egg races, which originally took-off in the early 1980s. Some of these egg races are competitive, others are investigative, either way practical problem solving with a chemical flavour has remained popular.

Some activities included teachers will have been doing for years, others will be new to them, but all are great fun. They can be used not only to enhance a topic taught in lesson time, but also as an end of term activity or in science clubs. But why should students have all the fun? They have also been used to promote chemistry to the public and inside there may be some good ideas for open days and for parents and governors!

Teacher notes are provided and give an indication of some of the approaches used by students and teachers when tackling the different problems.

Some of the egg races include: A birthday cake candle timer, Name the liquid, The ups and downs of chemistry and Quick jelly, as well as 46 others. The names are intriguing; have fun discovering what their challenge is!
Posted by Alexandra Kersting on May 29, 2013 5:28 PM BST
Faces of Chemistry – like so many things, our popular video series started with an idea! We wanted to show students of all ages how chemistry applies to real life and how the latest cutting-edge research leads to many different new products and technologies.

It’s been almost two years since we launched our first videos. Since then you might have heard Meloney Morris from Syngenta explain how chemistry helps to protect crops, watched scientists from Procter & Gamble tell you about why they love developing new hair colourants or found out more about organic solar cells from BASF’s Ingmar Bruder.

We’ve loved making these videos and hope that you’ve enjoyed watching them just as much. But at the same time we thought that Faces of Chemistry could be so much more than this. We wanted it to represent all sorts of people doing all sorts of things with chemistry, not just those working in industry or academia.

So Faces of Chemistry has undergone a mini revolution.

And to mark the occasion, we’ve built a brand new microsite. It’s now mobile- and tablet-friendly, meaning you can easily flick through our features ‘faces’ on mobile phones, iPads, etc. whilst you’re on the go.

But we’ve not just made it easier to browse the videos. We’ve also added two new sections: ‘Inspirational chemists’ and ‘Careers with chemistry’ (coming soon) join the existing ‘Inside the lab’ videos. So in addition to leaning more about the chemistry found in many products and items that we use every day, you can now also find out what inspired others to become chemists and how diverse the career options with a background in chemistry can be.

When you visit our new Faces of Chemistry site, you will hopefully notice that it is a lot easier to find and play the videos you’re looking for. The Inside the Lab section, pictured below, is divided into three tabs for the different age groups. You’ll also be able to click the ‘view resource’ link below the videos to see all the Faces of Chemistry videos we have on that specific topic.

We’d love to hear what you think about Faces of Chemistry’s new look. So please do get in touch. And if you have any suggestions about what you’d like to see here, then feel free to let us know. We are always looking for your feedback (good or bad) to help shape our future developments.

Enjoy using the new Faces of Chemistry site, and keep your eyes peeled for the new Careers with Chemistry section coming soon!
Posted by Richard Grandison on May 24, 2013 4:53 PM BST
I've long been a fan of Google Maps, and I was pleased indeed to see the combined efforts of Chris Lloyd from SSERC in Scotland and England's adopted son Andrea Sella, in the creation of two new chemistry landmark Google maps.

Scotland Chemistry MapFirst, north of the border, Chris Lloyd has used the brand-new Google Maps Engine to create an interactive map of locations in Scotland in chemistry history, organised around three headings: Births and Deaths, Educational Work, and Workplaces, Monuments, etc. Use the menu panel to tick or untick the categories.

For England, Wales, France, and beyond, see UCL prof. Andrea Sella's Chemistry Landmarks map, showing "places where chemists and other leading scientists worked, lived, or died in the UK."

Both maps are works in progress, and will be added to and updated in due course. In fact, you can add locations for Scotland to Chris's spreadsheet, or contact Chris via MyRSC. You can get in touch with Andrea at 'a dot sella at ucl dot ac dot uk' [spelt out to avoid spambots...].

If you're a teacher, why not combine these maps with our spiffing On This Day in Chemistry interactive calendar, to help unpick the places, personalities and events behind modern chemistry. Happy exploring!
Posted by Duncan McMillan on May 13, 2013 4:19 PM BST
To celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, Education in Chemistry has teamed up with Spiring Enterprises to offer you the chance to win some molecular modelling kits for your school.

The task
We would like you to design a worksheet (a single side of A4) for a 16-18 year old student to teach them some aspect of chirality using molecular modelling, and submit it using the online form.

What are we looking for?
The judges will be looking for entries that show originality, creativity, clarity of communication, accuracy of science and appropriateness to the target audience. They will select one first prize winner and two runners-up. First prize is one Inorganic/Organic molymod (teacher) set and five Inorganic/Organic molymod (student) sets. Runners-up prizes (two available) are one Inorganic/Organic molymod (teacher) set.

The closing date for entries is Thursday 1 August at 12:00 noon (BST).

Submitting your entry
Entries should be submitted using the online form. Full instructions and terms and conditions are on the entry form.

What next?
Winners will be notified by email by 21 October. Prize-winning entries and those judged as 'highly commended' will be made available as shareable resources on Learn Chemistry. Good luck!
Posted by David Sait on May 7, 2013 11:36 AM BST
As per popular demand, Chemical Misconceptions – prevention, diagnosis and cure. Volume I: theoretical background by Keith Taber has now been added to Learn Chemistry. This resource includes information about some of the key misconceptions that have been uncovered by research and ideas about a variety of teaching approaches that may help avoid students acquiring some common misconceptions.

Each theory chapter can be used in conjunction with chapters of Volume II. These are shown in the linked resources section below the main chapter (shown below). There is also information on how to use the resource, additional reading and a keywords index to show in which section which topics are covered.

Next month I’ll be adding In Search of Solutions to Learn Chemistry. Add your requests for the next resource in line to Talk Chemistry.

Posted by Alexandra Kersting on Apr 22, 2013 4:31 PM BST
We recognise the Challenging Plants and Challenging Medicines resources contain a huge amount of information in the form of presentations, handouts, worksheets and experiment sheets for teachers and students. With 100 resources in Challenging Plants and over 50 in Challenging Medicines it is difficult to see how the resources link to each other and how seemingly biology-based resources are linked to topics taught by teachers every day.

We have now provided pedagogical overviews for Plants and Medicines, as well as spider diagrams showing how the resources link to each other.

The Challenging Plants Experiment resources can be seen as sets (shown below) of ‘preparation of salts’, ‘preparing and investigating inorganic complexes’, ‘analysing solutions using colorimetric measurements’, ‘rates of reaction’, ‘chemistry investigations’ and ‘plant chemistry/biology experiment’ – all areas a teacher needs to cover. These experiments can give a teacher the option to use a different experiment to demonstrate, for example, making salts, and do so with supporting material that gives the experiment a real-life context.

The handouts and presentations are also linked through subject areas (shown below). These materials can be used in conjunction with the experiments to form topics and possible project work.

We hope these will be a helpful guide to the mass of information available through Challenging Plants and Challenging Medicines!
Posted by Alexandra Kersting on Apr 17, 2013 2:11 PM BST
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 joanna.buckley@sheffield.ac.uk
Posted by Joanna Buckley on Mar 20, 2013 11:55 AM GMT
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