Bristol ChemLabS Outreach in Paris, France

On the 02 and 03 October 2008, Bristol ChemLabS ran a two-day outreach event it had organised in the suburbs of Paris, in the towns of Bobigny and Pantin. The engagement involved four different schools for half a day each. The event was sponsored by Louise-Michel High School and the British Council and we were assisted in the local procurement of the necessary chemicals by the Association Science Ouverte. The event was widely covered by the press.

photo of Parisian studentsOn this occasion the outreach team comprised Dudley Shallcross, Tim Harrison, Linda Sellou and SEA Adele Laurain.

Day 1

The first half day session took place at the Auguste-Delaune Primary School. The lecture-demonstration ‘A Pollutant’s Tale’ was performed in French to 52 pupils aged 10-11 years. A circus of 3 experimental investigations, involving slime-making, determining acid concentration with magnesium and the iodine clock reaction were carried out by the children with their teachers. Mr Francois Gaudel (founder of Science Ouverte) was in attendance. The Bristol ChemLabS team was helped by local Chemist Anissa Sellou, a Masters' student of the Pierre et Marie Curie University (Paris VI).

In the afternoon, the lecture demonstration was performed for 200 students in English and French at Auguste-Delaune Secondary School. The experiments carried out with the students aged 13–14 years consisted of a workshop on polymers including making nylon, the iodine clock and slime (with Adele Laurain). One of the experiments was performed in English, supported by local teachers interpreting when necessary. The students reacted very well to the Chemistry and English exposure! These students, considered challenging by some, were eager and keen to experiment and performed the investigations well.

Day 2

On the second day ChemLabS visited two ‘high schools’, engaging with 200 students, aged 16-17 years in just the first one, Louise-Michel High School (Bobigny) . The lecture demonstration ‘A Pollutant’s Tale’ was given in English with a few translations made as necessary. The main content of the presentation with explanations had been previously studied in class with the student’s English teacher, Madame Calmat. The lecture in the morning session had ice cream-making as the finale. The morning’s activities included a workshop with students doing experiments involving thin-layer chromatography and ultraviolet visible spectroscopy. A third part of the workshop was a talk on perfume, given in English. Here again the terminology was previously studied by the classes in English lessons.

photos of Parisian studentsIn the afternoon, ChemLabS visited Marcelin-Berthelot High School at the request of the British Council. The lecture demonstration was the same as in the previous school and was given to a further 100 senior students, although the workshops were different.

What did the French school students gain from exposure to research Chemistry students from a British university?

According to their interviews in local and national newspapers or on television, their exposure to a mix of Chemistry and English had a great impact. The students drew a lot from their experience, including raised aspiration and motivation in addition to learning that chemistry can be fun! One additional factor that made the entire engagement such a success was that one of Bristol’s Chemists involved, Dr Linda Sellou, originated from those schools and provided an excellent and inspirational role model for the youngsters.


The media that covered this event included the TV news program of France 3–region Ile de France, Le Parisien Seine St Denis, Le Parisien Bobigny, Bonjour Bobigny (1,5MB PDF – p.8&9) and Le Journal de Pantin (6.2MB PDF – p.8).

For their help in this project we would like to thank:

Dr Clovis Darrigan of Science Ouverte, Carole Hemard of the British Council (Paris), Mrs Tallot (former Principal) and Miss Rosier of Auguste-Delaune Secondary School and the Headteachers of the four schools involved. A special thank you to Anissa Sellou, Pierre et Marie Curie University (Paris VI), for temporarily joining the Bristol ChemLabS outreach team.

Report on the Louise-Michel Website