May 2013

...but students are wowed by practical hands-on chemistry

Speech bubbles

Politics and discussions

I have a packed issue for you this time. A lot of discussion has taken place in the world of science education recently. We start with one that will have a huge impact for many - the proposed A-level reforms. Things could be very different in 2015. Watch this space for updates.

Also on the boundary of science education and politics we saw the publication of Ben Goldacre's paper on educational research, commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE). Wearing my other hat as managing editor of Chemistry Education Research and Practice (CERP), I do have a vested interest here. Research in chemistry education is a growing field across the world and many are working as researchers and classroom teachers to ensure students have the best learning experiences possible. I contacted Keith Taber, one of chemistry education's research gurus and editor of CERP, to find out if he had an opinion on the report. He did (see p8). A lively discussion ensued on Twitter between Ben and Keith, (Feedback, p10) following online publication of the comment.

Staying on the theme of science education and politics, we travel to Italy for a change of scene. Teresa Celestino considers how legislation controlling the chemical industry could (and should) be applied to the development of green curricula when teaching about the importance of chemistry in environmental topics.

Analysis and discovery 

EiC, however, has a finite capacity for politics so we move on to more hands-on and practical science. Spectroscopy is becoming a more important topic in post-16 curricula but the equipment is very expensive and is out of the range of many schools' budgets. You can arrange for it to come to you though. The RSC has partnered with a number of UK universities and Tracy McGhie explains how coordinators can run a workshop in your classroom, so your students can use this specialised equipment to solve a 'murder mystery'. 

There is more analysis down at the Victorian pharmacy, which is part of a real working museum and subject of a recent BBC documentary series. Jane Essex and various teams of school students analyse the contents of old pharmacy jars and bottles to find what might have been in them and what is there now. We stay investigating the past a bit longer as Anita Quye shows us how modern chemical conservation techniques can be used to preserve fragile textiles for future generations to appreciate and learn from.

This is a biannual Maths for Chemists issue and Paul Yates looks at the fundamental student problem of manipulating fractions in in chemistry calculations. As he demonstrates using the Arrhenius equation in a worked example, I thought you might be interested in an article from volume one of EiC; The theory of acids and bases by FM Hall from Wollongong University, Australia, which investigates the Arrhenius theory.

Finally, our Endpoint in this issue is contributed by Peter Wothers, presenter of the 2012 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. Peter shares Michael Faraday's belief that children are never too young to be fascinated by chemistry and that it our job as educators to ensure they have chance to see how fascinating and far reaching this subject is. An observation that I hope is evident in the diverse content of this issue.

Karen J Ogilvie, editor