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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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

The best presents are always those that have involved just a little bit more thought and obviously the ultimate gift (perhaps with the exception of that enormous reindeer-motif sweater you got a few years ago) is one that has been handmade especially for you. Students from local schools had the opportunity to put their practical skills to the test doing just that at a ChemNet event held on 18 December at the University of Glamorgan

Under the expert guidance of Dr Suzy Kean, 18 budding chemists from local schools discovered how to make scented bath bombs in a classic metal carbonate reaction; they created festively coloured tea lights which will burn with differently coloured flames and in the final activity the laboratory became temptingly scented with sugary smells of homemade crunchy honeycomb (but of course this couldn’t be consumed for health and safety reasons). Earlier in the day, the students found out how to grow their own crystal Christmas trees.  

Before going home with their own ‘goody bags’ of handmade gifts for mums, grannies or sisters, the students were treated to commercially made chocolate-covered honeycomb and magic Christmas tree kits kindly donated by Dr Dayna Mason, the Regional Coordinator for the RSC in Wales. However, I’m sure that next time a last-minute gift is needed these students will be having a go at doing some chemistry in their own kitchens in order to create the perfect gift.

I am hoping to run a similar event for students aged 14-16 or 16-18 somewhere in the South West region, so if you would like to host a crafty chemistry event at your school, college or university in time for next Christmas please do get in touch with me, Beth Anderson, the Regional Coordinator in the South West. Why wait until Christmas! How about arranging this for Valentine’s day, Mother’s day or just any day you feel inspired to do some creative chemistry!
Beth Anderson is RSC Regional Coordinator for South West England and works with the education team.
Contact her at
Posted by Beth Anderson on Jan 8, 2013 11:06 AM GMT
If Thomas Hardy had been a science teacher, his darkling thrush in the eponymous poem would surely have sung about the coming Association of Science Education conference - high on his agenda for the new year.

And whilst less blast-beruffled than we were at Liverpool in early 2012, we were no less excited about our plans for the coming year when we arrived at Reading on Wednesday. Item one for the Learn Chemistry team - release a major new update to the site!

And so, yesterday, in between busying ourselves with the world of science education at ASE 2013, we quietly updated our flagship home for chemistry education resources and services. 

We've added a bunch of visible and not-so-visible changes - many in response to user feedback, and many that we trust our users will enjoy and make the most of. Here's a quick run-down:

  • Bolder, simpler homepage. In response to user feedback we've simplified the shop window for Learn Chemistry. Now the focus of attention is on four key areas - search and browse (top), highlighted resources (middle left), community and news (middle right), and key site areas and links (bottom row).
  • New Logo! The Learn Chemistry Octopus is there, but he's making a little bit of way for our message: 'Enhancing learning and teaching with the RSC'. It does what it says on the tin.
  • Improved search results. Hitherto searching for, say, 'Protein Chemistry' yielded a surfeit of 'chemistry' results, and not enough 'protein chemistry' results. Jeff, our database guru, has made this aspect of search more useful and intuitive.
  • New resource browser. Below the search bar you can quickly and easily narrow the huge list of resources and data pages on Learn Chemistry from >3400 to a manageable dozen or so with just a handful of clicks. Select age range, audience, subject, context, or media to get rapidly to the right place.
  • New information panels on the homepage. Easier and more fun to browse around, with bigger, bolder images, and clearer text.
  • New Talk Chemistry community panel. The homepage now features a rotating feed of the latest comments from our 1000-user-strong chemistry teacher community on MyRSC.
  • New newsletter and feedback links on every page. All pages now have a combined social and contact panel. Let us know what you think, or register for updates using the feedback and newsletter links.
  • More compact and cleaner results listings. We've standardised and cleaned up the design scheme for our resource results listings, and added a nifty colour-coding system that helps you see at a glance which results are substance pages, resources, course material, and so on. 
  • Better resource video and document viewing pages. We've widened our resource pages - adding a nifty browser, and quadrupling the area for document and video previews. Web links will now also display either on the resource page, or will link you directly to the destination without the need to click through manually.
We hope you like what we've been up to. 2013 will be a busy and exciting year for us at RSC Education, so continue to watch this space for technical and design updates that will help you get even more out of our resources and tools for chemistry education.

PS: A big thanks to the team at Rave, James Bennett, Jeff White, and Rich Grandison for toiling away on the site whilst we drank Bellinis and had our feet massaged at ASE... 
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Jan 4, 2013 11:55 PM GMT
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