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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From January 2017 we’ll have a new education resource ‘theme’ to share with teachers across the UK and Ireland. 

Each school term we team up with our regional Education Coordinators to share and promote a handful of resources and tools for teaching chemistry in line with a particular theme. Previous themes have included ‘Bring your own device’, ‘Practical skills and assessment’, and ‘Space’. We publish the theme as a cardboard bookmark – a keepsake with links to five key resources.

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Our Spring 2017 theme will be ‘Inspiring young scientists’, and for the first time we’ll focus on Primary and Key Stage 3 (and equivalent) chemistry. The theme lists five resources selected from over 160 in Learn Chemistry, and includes a link to the whole set, now complete with rich supporting information to help teachers make better use of our resources for primary teachers.

Here they are: To access well over 100 primary resources (including those listed above), with supporting information and curriculum links, visit Learn Chemistry

All our theme resources are free to access on Learn Chemistry, but if you want one of our lovely bookmarks you’ve two options:
  1. Ask your local Education Coordinator.
  2. Download, print, and guillotine your own.
I think you should choose option 1. Our coordinators are experts in science education and outreach, and will be making particular efforts to support primary teachers in 2017.

Posted by Duncan McMillan on Dec 14, 2016 2:22 PM GMT

b2cba4ec9907726f9ffd37cfdbf68b70-huge-loWant to increase your confidence in teaching chemistry? Looking for fresh ideas for difficult topics?

From 5–7 January 2017 we will be at the ASE annual conference at the University of Reading. Whether you’re a specialist or non-specialist chemistry teacher, we would love to see you there.

We are running bite-sized professional development sessions on our exhibition stand. Each session lasts only 15 minutes and will be repeated multiple times throughout the event. There will be lots of opportunities to fit in time for discovering exciting new ideas for your classroom practice.

The sessions are:

  • Discover out of this world materials science (Key Stages 1–3)
    Have a go at a new idea for a science practical which is easily sourced and affordable.
  • How can I tackle misconceptions with scientific models? (Key Stages 3–4)
    Try a hands on activity you can use to introduce scientific models to your students.
  • How can I enhance my GCSE practical teaching?
    Learn more about the benefits of screen experiments for pre and post lab support
  • Bringing hands-on spectroscopy to your A-level classroom
    Take part in a spectroscopy in a suitcase workshop and find out more about how you can use it with your students.

The exhibition is free to attend, so come and see us on stand C33 to find out more.

Posted by David Sait on Dec 8, 2016 11:14 AM GMT
Global Experimenters, we need you!

  • Have you taken part in Mission: Starlight or plan to?
  • Would your students like to talk to leading space experts about their global experiment? (Perhaps to Tim Peake himself, finger crossed)
The UK Space Agency wants to celebrate the imaginative work linked to Tim Peake’s Principia mission that is being done by children of all ages by organising two schools conferences.

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These conferences will take place at the University of Portsmouth on Wednesday 2 November 2016 and the University of York on Saturday 5 November 2016.
Attendance at the conferences will be free, with travel bursaries available to help with the cost of getting to the venues.
Approximately 500 young people will be able to attend each conference. Those selected from the competitive application process will be invited to either give a short demonstration about their work or produce a display to exhibit at the conference.
Applications to attend can be from any individual, or groups of people of school age (up to and including A-Levels, Scottish Highers, BTECs and similar).
All applications must been received at the UK Space Agency by 12 noon on Thursday 15 September 2016.
Please note for a successful application the judges are looking for three things:
  1. What has been done by the students
  2. Why they should come to the conference
  3. What they would present, demonstrate or do at the conference
Find out more here.
If you are unsuccessful with your application to the Principia Schools Conference but are local to either the University of Portsmouth or the University of York please keep an eye out for the Outreach Days.
The Outreach Days will be more interactive, hands-on, for everyone to enjoy and we hope for lots of activities and sharing what you’ve been doing with space in school. We are expecting a lot of interest (especially if, fingers crossed, Tim Peake can be there).

Principia Conference Outreach Days – Tuesday 1st November for the University of Portsmouth and Sunday 6th November for the University of York. These will be open to both the invited school children from the conference day but also to the local schools and general public but it will be a ticketed event – for more information please keep checking this website for updates.

Best of luck.
Posted by Lee Page on Jun 30, 2016 9:37 AM BST

Tim Peake wants your students’ help
Has your school, community group or science club taken part yet?

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Introduced by British astronaut Tim Peake, your mission is to investigate materials that block or limit UV light using UV colour changing beads. Our global experiments are designed to challenge all ages and abilities, with resources that are easily sourced and affordable.

Tim’s involvement, along with the interactive nature of the experiments, makes this an engaging and educational way for students to understand just how important chemistry is in our world – and beyond. 
Mission: Starlight also encourages all participants to post their data to our website and receive a special Tim Peake message and participation certificates.

Join the global experiment today and you and your students can be part of something out of this world.

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We have been getting some great feedback via twitter (#globalexperiment) and emails from around the world.

Teacher, after attending a conference at the National STEM Learning Centre, York.
"Great ideas to take back to school. Kids will love these investigations"
A teacher from British School of Vila-real, Spain.
"Fantastic.  An investigation we can access for all ages with a focus on science methods and recording results"
Teacher, after seeing the global experiment demonstrated at the Cambridge Science Centre.
"I will order some magic UV beads and start some brilliant experiments with the children!"
Teacher having attended a Royal Society of Chemistry education coordinators after school network meeting, Blackpool.
"This session was brilliant!  Real-life application using everyday equipment - perfect."
Brown Owl, Belfast Girlguiding group leader, Northern Ireland.
“Fantastic experiment we all enjoyed it, science badges all around for our Brownies group”

Are you thinking about running Mission: Starlight but want a teacher / technician’s perspective?

Look no further, the global experiment from the technician’s cupboard

"We regularly run one of the global experiments with our Year 6 and 7 science tiers and this year we performed Mission Starlight. We identified this activity a week earlier to ensure we could collect all the equipment needed.

As technician that job fell to me. The requirements for the experiments are laid out in the guide and involved sacrificing a t-shirt and a sports top for the cause of science. Not too difficult.  Excessive staff room coffee drinking supplied me with enough milk cartons to cut up with no problem. Petri dishes got them lying about - same with tin foil and cling film. Finding sufficient red and yellow cellophane sweet wrappers was a challenge sufficient to promote me to maturity onset diabetes if I consumed the left over sweets, so I resorted to online retailers for my craft supplies and UV colour changing beads.

We had a happy time exposing our UV beads to the black light boxes and pupils were amazed at how fast the UV sensitive beads responded to exposure.  It gave us a great opportunity to discuss how we cannot see this radiation and the effects of UV on the skin. Trying the varying layers of materials for a space visor really surprised the students when seeing how quickly the protection could improve.  It was fascinating to see the reactions of our ‘challenging’ pupils to how useless cling film was at protecting you from UV. Note to self - use sunscreen!

This set of experiments was simple to prepare and easily accessible to the pupils who achieved reproducible results and enjoyed seeing their results on the global experiment map. This is something we will be doing again in the future. Win, win all round!"
Science technician from a school in Hertfordshire

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Posted by Lee Page on Jun 21, 2016 9:33 AM BST

Do you teach chemistry in the UK or Ireland? We need your help to inform our policy work on the chemistry curriculum.

The question of who should design the curriculum has been on the agenda recently – take a look at this blog post by Kristy Turner and this debate at the 2016 ASE annual conference. Many agree that an independent panel, supported by subject experts and specialists in designing curriculums and assessments, could resist frequent change at the whim of politicians.

Therefore, we are designing a chemistry curriculum for primary school through to pre-university chemistry. We are using analysis from teacher and student surveys, input from curriculum experts and representatives from interested sectors. This is not to try and initiate change in the recently introduced curriculum, but to inform our long-term view on the curriculum and in anticipation of future changes.

We have developed a framework for the curriculum in the form of Key Chemistry Concept Strands, which structure learning within and across different key stages.

We want to know what you think of these concept strands. Do they make sense? Would you have organised them differently? How would structure the curriculum as a teacher of chemistry? Let us know by completing our short survey. It should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.

Using your responses, we will start to design the content and context, the development of skills and the assessment, at each key stage, using the consolidated Key Chemistry Concept Strands as a framework for each.

Image © Shutterstock

Posted by Joanna Furtado on Mar 3, 2016 10:45 AM GMT

Chemistry teacherFrom September 2016 there are new practical requirements for GCSE science in Wales and England.

Are you concerned about introducing one of the new experimental techniques? Do you need resources to help students use apparatus? Looking for an interesting way to approach a particular topic? We can help!

To support the teaching of chemistry practical work, we have published a document that maps the requirements of the English GCSE specifications to Learn Chemistry resources. You can find all the specifications from the four main awarding bodies in England, both for combined and separate sciences. Download it here: English GCSE chemistry practical requirements

There's also an equivalent resource for Wales. We hope to add a similar resource for Northern Ireland in the following weeks.

The Learn Chemistry resources we've identified are intended to support your teaching. They suggest some exciting ways to demonstrate the techniques that students should become familiar with. They are not intended to be a scheme of work.

If you're new to Learn Chemistry, visit our dedicated experimentation hub for more ideas to increase engagement in scientific investigation, develop new skills and enhance students' knowledge.

Still not sure which GCSE science specification to choose? Read our earlier blogpost to help you make your decision.

Due to Ofqual rejecting the English GCSE science specifications for a second time, on 05/02/16, the content in the English resource is subject to any changes that occur in the re-drafting of the specifications. We will update the resources as the new specifications are accredited.

Joanna Furtado and Chrissie Maitland

Posted by Joanna Furtado on Feb 4, 2016 9:57 AM GMT

Confused about which GCSE science specification you should choose for your new Year 10’s in September 2016? Not sure how all the awarding bodies are differentiating themselves? Searching for some sort of coherent summary of the differences between them?

To help provide a brief, unbiased summary, we have put together a Learn Chemistry article which you can find here http://goo.gl/qktdSK. Looking at the third article on the Learn Chemistry resource page you will find a table containing the four main awarding bodies, their different science specifications for GCSE, and the extra offers they have to support teachers of GCSE science.  The hyperlinks in each box take you through to the relevant page for the specification, or the specification itself if it is accredited. The coloured key indicates whether a particular qualification will count towards Progress and Attainment 8, and towards the English Baccalaureate.


The main difference that you might notice from previous years are the schemes of work and syllabuses for KS3, with particular focus on the transition in Year 9 to KS4; other differences include Entry Level Certificates for lower ability students, which can run alongside GCSEs, and new STEM technical awards, which replace BTECs and Cambridge National Certificates at Level 1/2.

We hope this will help to equip you to choose your specification, when they are accredited, ready for teaching in September 2016!

Due to Ofqual rejecting the English GCSE science specifications for a second time, on 05/02/16, the content in this resource is subject to any changes that occur in the re-drafting of the specifications. We will update the resources as the new specifications are accredited.
Posted by Joanna Furtado on Feb 1, 2016 11:10 AM GMT
Are you looking for a free activity for your students during British Science Week? I’m a Scientist invites students to be the judges in this online X Factor style competition for scientists. Your students read the scientists’ profiles, ask them questions and have live online text-based chats. Students then vote for their favourite scientist to win £500 to spend on more STEM engagement.

This March the Royal Society of Chemistry is funding the I’m a Scientist Toxicology and Biochemistry Zones, as well as a Climate Change Zone just for primary school students. Your students will be able to have live chats with scientists all over the UK. Students can find out about their research, its applications and the variety of careers available.

I’m a Scientist runs between 7–18 March and is completely free for UK schools. The Toxicology and Biochemistry zones are open to all secondary schools and the Climate Change Zone is open to primary schools (Years 5 and 6). All teachers are sent a Teacher Pack with lesson plans to help introduce students to the event and make the activity simple to organise.

“I think the best bit of I'm a Scientist is the weeks after - I got lots of 'Miss, you know when the scientist said ...' ” - Teacher

Students become more enthused about science, learn that science lessons relate to real life, and see that scientists are normal people.

To take part, register before 1st February at: imascientist.org.uk/teachers

To see the full list of March 2016 zones and to find out more visit: imascientist.org.uk/2016/01/march-2016-zones or email Josh in the I’m a Scientist team at josh@gallomanor.com or give him a ring on 01225 326892.

Posted by Jenny O'Hare on Jan 14, 2016 1:27 PM GMT