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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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. http://www.scienceweeksy.org.uk/events.htm
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 http://www.britishscienceassociation.org/national-science-engineering-week
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 joanna.buckley@sheffield.ac.uk
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: http://www.rigb.org/contentControl?action=displayEvent&id=1399

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
Great news, confirmed yesterday by representatives from the Education Resources Awards (ERA) - Learn Chemistry is a finalist for an Education Resources Award!

Education Resources Award Finalist - Learn ChemistryWe have been shorlisted in the category 'Secondary Resource or Equipment - including ICT', alongside established education services such as Mathletics, and SAM Learning.

The ERAs are linked to the annual Education Show, at Birmingham's NEC, a major event for education resource suppliers and their users and customers in schools and colleges.

Following on the heels of our shortlisting for the 2013 BETT Awards (the winners of which will be announced next week) this is yet more support for our work at the RSC.

We're investing in chemistry education, and we want Learn Chemistry to be a global hub for chemistry resources and services, whatever level of study. 

Wish us well for the Education Resources Awards on the 15th March!
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Jan 25, 2013 12:21 PM GMT

Karen J Ogilvie looks behind the scenes of EiC 50 years ago

Education in Chemistry was founded 50 years ago by Ronald S Nyholm and continues to fly the flag for innovation and best practice in chemistry teaching.

EiC 50th AnniversaryAs we are celebrating EiC’s 50th anniversary year, I thought you may like to know a bit about its background.
It was quite difficult to choose exactly when the anniversary actually should be. Should it be volume 50? Should it be from the initial conception, the formation of the editorial board, the appointment of staff, the commissioning of articles or the publication date? ‘All of the above’, seemed to be reasonable. In the end, I decided that volume 50 in its entirety should be one big celebration.

To reach this conclusion, I had to do a bit of historical research down in the basement at Burlington House, where Kate Bennett (librarian) kindly helped me to search the archives for essential information that was locked away within the secrets of Chemical Society minute books.

In the beginning… the proposal
For the full story, I had to go back to a report from the Education Committee meeting held on 17 November 1962 and discussed at the Council meeting on 14 December 1962 - an investigation had been started to determine the feasibility of a ‘British Journal of Chemistry Education’. After considering various recommendations, the scope and content was agreed and the Committee suggested that the Royal Institute of Chemistry (RIC) should retain control of the title. A plea was made to launch the journal as soon as possible.

Funding agreed
Minutes from the Council meeting held in March 1963, recorded a letter from the trustees of the Nuffield Foundation who been approached by Professor Ronald S Nyholm (after whom the RSC Education Award is named) which stated that they were prepared to make a ‘repayable grant of £10,000 to meet initial launch costs and establish the journal which would be produced by the RIC.’ The offer was accepted by Council. One of the conditions attached to the offer was the appointment of an independent editorial Advisory Board for the production and management of the journal.

Editorial board appointed
In June 1963, all of the invitations to serve on the Editorial Advisory Board had been accepted and Professor Nyholm was appointed Chair. It was agreed that the journal should be called Education in Chemistry. It was also announced that the editor would be Dr FW Gibbs, so we can justifiably celebrate the 50th anniversary in 2013.

The Editorial Advisory Board met in July 1963 to discuss the shape and content of the journal. It was noted that suggestions for articles had already been received. An Education Committee report from October 1963 states that Education in Chemistry would be published quarterly. It records Dr Gibbs’ plans for the launch and that the first issue would be January 1964.

Publicity leaflets were distributed in October 1963 with the Journal of the [Chemical] Institute and the School Science Review, to attract subscribers in the UK and Overseas.

Spotlight on Volume 1, issue 1
So here we 50 years on and able to look back at the very first feature published in Education in Chemistry: ‘Modelling of chemical structures with expanded polystyrene spheres’ by KS Teplow. This is a fascinating feature and reading this you will see that chemistry teachers 50 years ago not only had to know their subject, they had to be master model makers too! Honestly, what did we do without Molymod Kits or Cochrane’s Orbit sets?

The time and skills needed to make molecular models 50 years ago would appear to be a luxury that we no longer have. You will find this article on our website at http://rsc.li/EiCV1I1a. During the year I will make more of the early Education in Chemistry articles available through the website and Learn Chemistry.

50th anniversary prizes
In recognition of Education in Chemistry’s 50th anniversary, Molymod have kindly donated kits as prizes for anniversary competitions. Sign up for the e-alert at http://rsc.org/e-alert to find out about competitions and how you can win prizes for your class.

[A note from Duncan:
Check out Education in Chemistry's 50th anniversary issue, one of our featured resources on the Learn Chemistry homepage this month] 
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Jan 18, 2013 1:09 PM GMT
Teamwork and practical chemistry skills were put to the test recently as 13 schools competed to be Top of the Bench in the RSC Bristol and District Region local heats.

Using equipment at the award-winning Bristol ChemLabS, teams of four students from each school had to organise their own time in order to do three experiments and complete a quiz. Expert staff from Bristol University outreach team were on hand to ensure that everyone worked safely.

Although the competitors had to work hard to complete everything within the time, they also thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Talking to several members of the teams, participants said the event was “loads of fun!” and that the experience had been “really good!”

So to the results – in 1st place it was Cheltenham Ladies College, Sidcot School came second and Cheltenham College were third. The winning team will go forward to the National finals.
If you think your school has some keen, budding chemists who are prepared to put in an extra effort why not consider entering a team of your own! In the meantime you could also encourage your students to enter our science communication competition for the Bill Bryson Prize.

Beth Anderson is RSC Regional Coordinator for South West England and works with the education team.
Contact her at beth.anderson@bristol.ac.uk
Posted by Beth Anderson on Jan 10, 2013 3:26 PM GMT
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