How to start a chemistry club (continued)
Keeping going

Variety and planning are the keys to long term success (see Section 2).

Have one or two quick and easy experiments on tap to invigorate any pupils who are flagging on more extended investigations. Keep some quizzes, games etc. available to interest those who would like a change from practical work.

Taking club members on occasional visits or indulging them with other treats as rewards for their extra work is an effective way of reinforcing group solidarity.

It is a good plan to end the term with a special meeting as this emphasises the club identity and congratulates the members on their term’s achievements. You can invite an outside speaker or ask some of the group to present progress reports on their projects.

Maintaining and developing a chemistry club - a teacher’s experience

Once you have set up a chemistry club, be prepared for a seemingly endless queue of eager faces at your lab door waiting to be entertained. For us, this was the first problem. We were victims of our own success. There was an ever increasing number of children with a vast range of practical abilities and chemical knowledge and we had already used all the suitable activities listed in resources such as the Salters’ Handbook.

A new strategy was required and it was felt that we should try to develop more investigative work which was pupil-led. Introducing investigative work had the immediate effect of drastically reducing the queues. The children wanted fun activities, but were resistant to becoming involved in the development of them.

Another approach was needed. We decided to focus on helping the pupils to develop skills of independent working. The club was divided into three distinct groups. Firstly, The New Scientists, who were the youngest or least experienced. They concentrated on single activities, organised for them, which could be completed in one session. The New Scientists were supervised by a member of staff and some Sixth Year students, who helped to make slime, elephants’ toothpaste and anything else that was messy or smelly. Having a new Science Centre on our doorstep enabled this group to participate in a ‘Be an Inventor Challenge’ organised by the Centre. They also went to Science Night at the Science Museum in London. There is nothing to beat sleeping on the floor in one of the galleries!

The second group was called The Alchemists and they were more experienced. Their themed activities were spread over several sessions and were supervised by staff and senior pupils. The initial experiments were organised for them, but they were gradually encouraged to develop their own ideas.

The last group, The Researchers, worked much more independently on problem-solving activities similar to those found in the RSC In Search of Solutions book.

Some Advanced Higher project work has been incorporated into the club’s activities, for example weather and air pollution monitoring. This involves everything from recording temperature and rainfall, to setting up NO tubes and measuring acid rain concentration. The information we collect is being sent to Northamptonshire Grammar School via the Internet, as part of the Acid Rain 2000 Project.

Each term we host talks or demonstrations by outside organisations for the whole group. At these we’ve seen giant bubbles, heard explosions and listened to talks on animal testing and the origins of our Universe. We even manage a joint party at the end of the session where all games have a chemical theme. This includes ice-cream making!

The Salters’ Festival provides a focus for activity, along with CREST awards, RSC events and other quizzes. There is now no shortage of ideas for activities to meet the needs of the club members and the lunchtime sessions are enjoyable for all who take part, even the teachers and technicians!


For further information on The Salters' Institute's Activities, including Salters' Festivals of Chemistry and Salters' Chemistry Camps, please view the web site at www.saltersinstitute.co.uk

Copyright Salters' Chemistry Club 2005
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