The workshops described on this page are suitable for students who have no experience of practical science. They assume little or no familiarity with laboratory procedure or basic techniques. These workshops are designed to ensure that the entry-level student develops a good working knowledge of the fundamentals of experimental science. If you are looking for our GCSE Required Practicals or our advanced level research projects, please follow the links above.
Our 'Introduction to the Experimental Sciences' series of linked workshops is highly suitable for home-educated students who wish to integrate laboratory-based investigation as part of their study of science. The emphasis is on developing core skills and establishing confidence in the laboratory rather than just completing a list of experiments to pass exams. As the student acquires proficiency, so the demands of the experimental work increase. Please note that these workshops are only available to long-term students as part of an overall science tuition package. The series spans a couple of academic years,after which the student will be properly prepared for the required practicals of the GCSE syllabuses in years 10 and 11, should they wish to formalise their science qualifications.
The practical activities themselves are roughly tailored to fit inside a two-hour window; on occasions, however, it may be necessary alter the length of sessions (this is a easily done with the block booking system). The experimental work covers the following broad topics in the five sequential modules.
(i) Measurement of physical quantities;
(ii) Simple chemical analysis;
(iii) Biological observation and drawing;
(iv) Experimental design, controls and variables;
(v) Basic statistics and data handling;
(vi) Record keeping.
(i) Forces and their measurement;
(ii) Solubility, solutions and concentration;
(iii) Neutralisation reactions, pH, preparation of salts;
(iv) Light microscopy;
(v) Water relations of plants;
(vi) Electrical circuits and basic electronics.
(i) Rates of reaction;
(ii) Specific heat capacity;
(iii) Yeast culture and growth curves;
(iv) Acid and base titrations,
(v) Energy transfers and work done.
The fourth module shifts the focus away from the acquisition of technical skills, and places them firmly within an experimental framework.
(i) Determination of spring constants;
(ii) Measurement of osmosis and transpiration under different conditions;
(iii) Population doubling time in yeast;
(iv) Enthalpy change of solution;
(v) Starch hydrolysis by amylase at differing pH;
(vi) Data handling and hypothesis testing.
This module is designed to supplement the process of GCSE revision. The emphasis is again shifted: this time from away from the development of methodology and technique, focusing instead on the underlying theoretical basis. In terms of the scientific method, from the previous focus on methods, materials and results to the development of conclusions, explanations and hypotheses. The emphasis is on consolidating the underlying GCSE theory. The student undertakes the following investigations (some of their work is shown on the right).
(i) The titration curves of strong and weak acids and bases;
(ii) The concentration-dependent rate of the neutralization reaction between copper oxide and sulphuric acid;
(iii) Redox reactions in electrolysis using a variety of electrodes and electrolytes;
(i) The resistance of electrolyte systems used in electrolysis;
(ii) The equations of motion;
(iii) The heat capacity of different metals;
Additionally, as part of the final (GCSE) module the GCSE Revision and Molecular Biology Tutorials will form a regular part of the activities.