The workshops described on this page are suitable for students who have a limited experience of practical science, typically that which would be acquired as part of their GCSE studies. They are based on the required GCSE science practicals, but have been considerably extended to ensure that the student develops a full understanding of the underlying theory. They have been designed as an effective way of revising for the yr11 GCSE exams. If you are looking for a less structured introduction or you would like to undertake a longer-term (1 year) advanced research project, please enquire.
We consider that practical experience in the laboratory is an essential part of a scientific education. We offer regular lab-based experimental work in all three basic sciences to all of our long-term science students. We can offer both a formal, structured series of workshops of increasing complexity and an ad-hoc approach. Due to Covid, the schools seem to vary widely in what practical work science students are undertaking; our experience suggests it can be none in some extreme cases. Now it is very often a question of 'have you done this practical? ... No?..OK, let's do it next week'. We believe that in offering individually tailored experiments to students, we are absolutely the best tutors in the area. We also believe that this approach 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 in tandem with the development of theory. Science is a core subject spanning several academic years, starting in yrs 7, 8, 9 (KS3) through yrs 9 and 10 (early KS4) to the end of the GCSEs in yr 11 (late KS4). The practical activities themselves are roughly tailored to fit inside a three-hour window, although it is more usual to split this over a couple of shorter sessions (this is a easily done with the block booking system). A typical series of investigations might look something like the one below.
Hooke's Law: The relationship between force and the extension of a spring.
(GCSE Required Practical 6 (RP6, physics). A simple, reliable investigation useful for assessing basic maths skills.
Newton's Second Law, F=ma
(RP7, Physics). The acceleration of a trolley by pulling it with varying weights is measured using a ticker timer. Introduces the equations of motion, ideas of friction and frequency; develops maths skills: basic algebra, gradients, tangents and areas under graphs.
The acid/thiosulphate reaction (the disappearing cross experiment).
(RP5, Chemistry). A classic. Straightforward, reliable and interesting. Horrible smell too! Introduces the idea of rates of reaction and how it varies with the concentration of the reagents; the sulphur is recovered by filtration, introducing another core technique.
Strong and weak acids, salts and the preparation of buffers.
One for the chemists! Acid-base theory, pH, and concentration are introduced by way of 'making up' a series of buffers necessary for the following practical.
The effect of pH on the activity of amylase.
(RP5, Biology) The rate of reaction of the enzyme amylase is measured at different pH using the buffers made up in the previous practical.
The determination of the iso-osmotic point in potato tissue
(RP3, Biology) The introductory series is rounded off with this essential practical. This practical can also be extended to examine the relationship between the rate of osmosis and the surface area to volume ratio.
Such a series may span two or three terms, depending on how much of the underlying theory is already in place. The practical sessions are usually interleaved with theory sessions, before, during or after each practical as needed. This is also an extremely effective form of revision for yr 10 GCSE students.