Regular Activities for Secondary Schools


For more than a decade the School of Chemistry has established regular outreach activities for secondary schools. The regular events are detailed below. Teachers who wish to be regularly updated about activities can be added to the CHeMneT emailing list by contacting chem.-net@bristol.ac.uk.

Schools Conferences | Schools' Laboratory Programme | Aspiration Raising Days | Practical Assessment Support |Spectroscopy Visits | Lecture Demonstrations | Summer Schools | RSC 'Top of the Bench' | RSC Schools’ Analyst Competition | Salters’ Festival | Polymer Chemistry Workshop | Perfume Chemistry Workshop | KS4 Structure & Bonding Workshop | KS4 and Post 16 Climate Change Workshop | Aspirin Preparation Workshop | Bespoke Workshops |

Schools Conferences

Photo from one of the Schools' Conferences

There are two possibilities for conferences depending on venue.

1. Schools Conferences at the School of Chemistry

Several times per year Bristol ChemLabS hosts afternoon schools' conferences for several hundred students at a time. They tend to start between 13:30 and 14:00 and finish around 16:30. Nationally, and occasionally internationally, important chemists and other scientists are invited to present lectures, talks and lecture demonstrations to school students.
A key feature of most conferences is the 30 minute ‘lecturette’ given by Bristol University postgraduate Chemists on an area related to their own work but targeted at KS3, KS4 or Post 16 as appropriate.

Details of the conferences appear on our Upcoming Events page and CHeMneT members will, as usual, be emailed the information about forthcoming conferences well in advance. For bookings please email chem-net@bristol.ac.uk

The conferences are supported by the Bristol and District branch of the Royal Society of Chemistry, so only a small charge per student is made.

2. Schools Conferences Based in Host Schools

As a response to requests Bristol ChemLabS can also present morning and afternoon chemistry and science conferences based in host schools. The host school organises the attendance of students from their own and local schools. The speakers will generally be from University of Bristol.

For further information or bookings please email chem-net@bristol.ac.uk

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Schools' Laboratory Programme

Bristol ChemLabS Teaching Laboratories are available on most Wednesdays throughout the year as well as other days outside of undergraduate term time for visiting schools as part of the Schools’ Laboratory Programme. Visits may be for the morning workshops only or can be coupled with lectures and talks in the afternoon full day of activity.

Please visit the Bristol ChemLabS Schools' Laboratory Programme pages for details.

For bookings please email chem-net@bristol.ac.uk

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Aspiration Raising Days

These workshops (generally held 10:00 -15:45) are suitable for students from Year 9 upwards. These days see the students working in the undergraduate teaching laboratories in the morning on an extended practical using materials and equipment not commonly available in schools and in the lecture theatre in the afternoon hearing what it is like to be a generic undergraduate student, listening to a postgraduate student talk about an aspect of their research that is relevant to the school curriculum and experiencing a lecture demonstration. If time permits for a slightly longer visit a tour of the extensive School of Chemistry may be included. There is a charge per student for this activity.

For more details about this day please click here:

For bookings please email chem-net@bristol.ac.uk

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Practical Assessment Support

Bristol ChemLabS has worked with schools to provide laboratory support for Post 16 extended practicals such as those required in two step synthesis. These facilities have been recognised by Edexcel.

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Spectroscopy Visits

SEM imageDuring the middle two weeks of September each year we open our doors to A2 chemistry students and their teachers and run half-day (10 am-12:20 pm or 2 pm-4.20 pm) spectroscopy workshops. Students experience mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and hands-on infrared spectroscopy at first hand. Depending on availability, they also get demonstrations in electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction and ultra violet-visible (uv-vis) spectroscopy. Typically the workshops run during the mornings and afternoons, three days a week for two weeks.

The conferences are supported by the Bristol and District branch of the Royal Society of Chemistry, so only a small charge per student is made. Please check the CHeMneT events page or contact chem-net@bristol.ac.uk  to find out about current availability as these visits get booked up soon after dates are announced.

Please check the CHeMneT events page or contact chem-net@bristol.ac.uk as to current availability.

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Lecture Demonstrations

Two main lecture demonstrations ‘A Pollutant’s Tale' and ‘A Chemical Delight’ are frequently requested to be delivered in schools. Up to 4 performances per day of these 1 hour sessions can be performed by Tim Harrison and can be tailored to audiences from Year 7 to Post 16. Audience size depends on venue-school halls, theatres and lecture theatres are fine as long as the people at the back can still see.

Other talks that are available. Amongst these are:

Extremophile Chemistry (30 mins)
The Chemistry of Toothpaste (30 mins)
The Chemistry of Chocolate (30 mins)
Perfume (Fragrance) Chemistry (60 or 30 mins)
Gases in the Air (45 mins –with experiments)
Silicon and Silicone Chemistry (30 mins)

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Summer Schools

There are several possible summer schools for students aged 16 and above. More information is available from chem-net@bristol.ac.uk.
Photo from a Dublin Summer School

Students 16 years and over send half the week in Bristol ChemLabS and half the week at Trinity College Dublin. Students from several countries usually attend these workshops  – click here for more details. Click here to download a flyer

Schools who wish to bring groups of their students for  a residential experience should contact chem-net@bristol.ac.uk for more information click here.

This residential summer school is based entirely at Bristol.

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RSC 'Top of the Bench'

Top of the Bench is a national competition run by the RSC for 14 to 16 year old students. The competition starts in the RSC local sections where heats are organised for schools in the local area to select a team to compete in the UK Final.
This competition is usually held in the Autumn Term as an evening event, typically 6:00 until 9:30pm

More information (PDF file)

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Salters’ Festival

Photo from a Salter's Festival at Bristol ChemLabS
Each year Bristol ChemLabS hosts a Salters Festival of Chemistry for Y7 to 9. Please contact the Salter’s Institute for entry and other details of their festivals.

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RSC Schools’ Analyst Competition

The Royal Society of Chemistry holds an annual  national competition for teams of young chemists.

The Schools' Analyst Competition is a national competition run by the RSC's Analytical Division for first year 6th form students studying AS-Level chemistry or equivalent.  The Analytical Division’s Regions hold heats, generally during March and April, to select a team or teams, to go through to the National Final. Each team comprises three students. Bristol ChemLabS in conjunction with the University of Plymouth will host the heat sfor the south west of England.

Additional information about the RSC Schools' Analyst Competition.

Details including expected timings of the day

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Polymer Chemistry Workshop

photos from polymer workshops

Date: Summer term – May
Timings: 10:00 to 15:00

This full day university experience includes a number of chemistry polymer practicals within a three station circus of experiments. Students will work at for 2.5 hours in the morning alongside postgraduate chemists. Lab coats and safety glasses will be provided.

After a short lunch break, we will move to the lecture theatres for three talks. There will be a lecture on polymer chemistry, another by a postgraduate on an area of their work and an entertaining 'flash-bang' lecture to finish.

A tour of the School of Chemistry can be provided for any school requesting it in advance. This would take place before the start of the day at 9:30. We can host up to 100 students per day and will join small school groups together. We expect to run this for several days during this week. There is a charge for this workshop.

Please contact chem-net@bristol.ac.uk to register your interest for this workshop.

More details

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Perfume Chemistry Workshop

Photo from a perfume workshop

The morning session involves an introduction to the sense of smell, how to smell materials correctly, safety and a brief overview of the perfume industry and how perfumes are composed. Links will be made to the sense of taste, intermolecular bonding and separation techniques. Group size is limited to 16-20 participants.

The entire afternoon session will be given over to the students to produce their very own fragrance, which may be bottled and taken away. This workshop may be held at Bristol ChemLabS or in a school laboratory

More details

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KS4 Structure and Bonding Workshop

This  is a half day session with web-based materials for students to look at beforehand. The workshop introduces students to ionic, covalent and hydrogen bonding and draws on a range of systems, from the usual diamond, graphite and salt to enzymes.

Why not look at our structure and bonding website, written by Dr. Jeremy Harvey

Please contact chem-net@bristol.ac.uk to register your interest for this workshop.

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KS4 and Post 16 Climate Change Workshops

Image is from a computer model calculation showing the build up of the ozone hole (red) over Antarctica

This university experience includes a 2.5 hour practical period where students work on a variety of aspects of fuel chemistry, from alternative fuels to fuel cells to Grätzel cells during the morning session. Lab coats and safety glasses are provided.

After a lunch break we will move to the lecture theatres for three talks. There will be a 90 minute lecture demonstration on climate change from a leading expert.
We can host up to 50 students per day.

Please contact chem-net@bristol.ac.uk to register your interest for this workshop.

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Aspirin (and Oil of Wintergreen) Preparation Workshop

This half day workshop for Post 16 chemists (but accessible for KS4 G&T students) allows large numbers of students (60 maximum) to carry out these common preparations in state of the art laboratories in a single session. Analysis by infra red spectroscopy is included.

The three hour session can be extended with an afternoon of tours and talks if requested. There is a charge for these activities.
Please contact chem-net@bristol.ac.uk to register your interest for this workshop.

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Bespoke Workshops

Bristol ChemLabS School Teacher Fellow has worked with teachers to create a number of bespoke sessions ranging from Post 16 assessed practical work, instrumental analysis, green chemistry and colour chemistry. If you have a request for a specific workshop, with or without an afternoon of lectures and demonstrations please contact t.g.harrison@bristol.ac.uk. Note laboratory space is usually fully booked up for at least 4 months in advance so early planning is advised.

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