Introduction to the Experimental Sciences.
The workshops described on this page are suitable for students who have limited experience of practical science. They assume little familiarity with laboratory procedure or basic techniques. If you are looking for our advanced level workshops, please follow this link.
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: as the student acquires proficiency, so the demands of the experimental work increase. These workshops are only available to long-term students: the series spans several academic years, ideally from yrs 7, 8, 9 (KS3, modules 1 and 2) through yrs 9 and 10 (early KS4, modules 3 and 4) to the end of the GCSEs in yr 11 (late KS4, module 5). 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.
Module 1: Scientific Method.
The first module of the workshop series focusses on some of the fundamental scientific skills.
(i) Measurement of physical quantities;
(ii) Simple chemical analysis;
(iii) Biological drawing;
(iv) Sampling and experimental design;
(v) Basic statistics and data handling;
(vi) Record keeping.
Module 2: Laboratory Techniques.
The second and third modules build on the first module by introducing some common techniques.
(i) Standard solutions;
(ii) Acid and base titrations;
(iii) Paper chromatography;
(iv) Light microscopy;
(v) Culturing stock organisms;
(vi) Electrical circuits.
Module 3: Further Laboratory Techniques.
(i) Rates of reaction;
(ii) Basic enzymology;
(iii) Yeast culture;
(iv) Simple and fractional distillation;
(v) Specific heat capacity;
(vi) Energy transfers and work done.
Module 4: Experimental Design.
The fourth module shifts the focus away from the acquisition of technical skills, placing them firmly within an experimental framework.
(i) Determination of spring constants;
(ii) Measurement of transpiration;
(iii) Population doubling time in yeast;
(iv) Enthalpy change of solution;
(v) Starch hydrolysis by amylase;
(vi) Data handling and hypothesis testing.
Module 5: Proficiency and research.
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 rate of photosynthesis in different plants
(ii) The growth of Saccharomyces cerevisiae using different carbon sources
(iii) The rate of osmosis in natural and model systems
(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 energy transfers of falling bodies (estimations of g)
(iii) The heat capacity of different solutions
Additionally, as part of the final (GCSE) module the
GCSE Revision and Molecular
Biology Tutorials will form a regular part of the activities.