The Clubbers` Guide - The Warwick School



The Clubbers` Guide - The Warwick School
Science notes
The Clubbers’ Guide
‘Be inspired, inspire others’
Liz Carter
‘Be inspired, inspire others’ is our school motto
and also something I aim to achieve by running
the Science Club at The Warwick School
in Redhill, an 11–16 specialist technology
comprehensive. The Science Club is but a part of
our extensive science, technology, engineering
and mathematicss (STEM) programme that has
developed over time through the involvement of
a large number of staff. It extends from outreach
activities with our feeder primary schools and
a summer school for rising year 7 students (age
11–12), through our own students with events
including a renewable energy day, and on to
parents and other adults in the community with
technology challenge evenings, bat walks, annual
lectures and so on.
The Science Club is open to all students but
mainly attracts a certain type of year 7 member,
the ‘boisterous boys’. They are not the most
academic students but enjoy the practical side of
science, especially anything that involves using
Bunsen burners or some kind of fire. Therefore, to
start with, we:
Figure 1 Learning how to collect gas over water
Figure 2 Testing for oxygen
SSR September 2012, 94(346)
l make and test oxygen, carbon dioxide and
hydrogen and practise collecting oxygen over water
following established methods (Figures 1 and 2)
l do flame tests and make soda snake fireworks
around bonfire night
l extract iron on a pinhead
l make plastic out of milk and vinegar
l model volcanoes with red wax and sand
Science notes
l carry out the classic ‘sucking’ eggs experiment
using air pressure to push hard-boiled eggs into a
conical flask (Figure 3).
Details of activities, including risk
assessments, can be found on the relevant
websites given at the end of this article.
Our Christmas party is always eagerly
anticipated – we have a competition to build a
balloon-bursting machine that must include as
many energy transformations as possible. This
usually, and almost inevitably, involves some
variations on dynamics trolleys careering down
ramps with drawing pins or flaming cocktail
sticks at the front, having first been released from
their starting position by a candle flame burning
through a holding string (Figure 4). I make sure
that all machines set off in the same direction and
that none of them crosses the ‘lanes’.
I have tried all sorts of other activities, with
varying degrees of success (some need more
l Working through the periodic table one
element at a time. Sometimes the link to
Figure 4 A balloon-bursting machine
Figure 3 ’Sucking’ eggs at Science Club
SSR September 2012, 94(346)
Science notes
the element is rather tenuous, for example
investigating magnetism at the helium session
(helium is used to cool the super-conducting wires
that form the electromagnet in MRI scanners).
l Dissections – many students enjoy these
(Figure 5). A good introduction is the plasticine rat
dissection on the Planet SciCast website.
l Making videos (Figure 6) – this is a good
activity for engaging those who are more
intellectual. The students can handle all the
processing and, depending on the topic, few
resources are required. Our most recent attempt
was to explain how melting ice caps only raise
sea levels if the ice is on land. It needed only two
beakers, some ice cubes and a block to represent
the land but held the interest of the students for
the full hour.
l Forensic science themed activities (Figure 7).
I enjoy the challenge of finding new and
exciting activities and it is very rewarding when
the students return week after week full of
enthusiasm; however, finding the time to plan and
prepare for science club is sometimes difficult.
Where do I go to ‘Be inspired’? The internet
is obviously a great resource – I refer to several
websites within this article, and the STEM
Clubs Network website at
is becoming more and more useful. Publications
from the Science Enhancement Programme
are also helpful, as are courses and continuing
professional development (CPD) sessions run by
the Assocation for Science Education (ASE) and
Science Museum Lates (events held on the last
Wednesday of every month in the evening for
Figure 5 Students carrying out a rat dissection
Figure 6 Preparing to film a short video about
SSR September 2012, 94(346)
Figure 7 Investigating blood splatter patterns
adults only). The outreach teams at the University
of Surrey and at Royal Holloway have been very
helpful and suppliers’ representatives often have
good ideas too. Surrey Wildlife Trust has run
sessions for us (Figure 8).
Sometimes the students themselves provide
the inspiration. Before going on study leave, a
group of year 11 students (age 15–16) thanked
their science teacher for all his efforts by making
the Periodic Table in cupcakes using coloured
icing to distinguish the groups as in their record
books and putting chemical symbols on each one
(Figure 9). What a great STEM activity!
I recently had the wonderful opportunity
to work with our local STEM clubs adviser,
Samantha Durbin, and I had a chance to reflect
on what I do with science. What is it that I would
like to achieve through running the club beyond
‘inspiring others’? For me, it is about broadening
children’s education, helping them to see the
applications of science and to understand its
history. It is also about developing their practical
skills, promoting good practice such as working
tidily and putting lids back on bottles, developing
a feel for the practice of science, and having time
to explore, ask questions and find things out for
Science notes
themselves. It is important that the students learn,
and that they enjoy their learning and take pride in
it. Building effective working relationships with
adults and teamworking skills with their peers
are added benefits. What else could I do to make
science club a more integral part of our school
rather than an optional extra for a few students?
I have long thought that the students would
benefit from carrying out some kind of project
Figure 8 Preparing to birdwatch with Surrey Wildlife
Figure 9 The Periodic Table in cupcakes
SSR September 2012, 94(346)
Science notes
over a longer time period than most school work
allows for and I have been fortunate in securing
a Royal Society Partnership Grant. I applied
for funding for a project to investigate how
human activities affect water quality in local
natural watercourses through using chemical and
biological indicators. We are well placed for such
an investigation as we are sited close to a landfill
site, a watersports park, a housing development
around a large mere, a nature reserve, and sand
and gravel quarries. The grant gives us the
opportunity to work with scientists from the
water industry, an aquatic ecological consultant,
a meteorologist and the local water company, as
well as Surrey Wildlife Trust. Through our work
we will be helping Surrey Wildlife Trust in a
project that aims to re-introduce water voles into
the local brook; this is part of a much bigger ‘A
Living Landscape’ project. Science and Nature
Club students will be very much involved with the
project (Figure 10) and so too will other students –
some science and geography lessons are going to
be used; our Progress Group, which includes our
less academically able students, has been keeping
a photo diary of our ecology area and recording
their pond-dipping results, and the XL Club,
which is a group of similarly less academically
able year 11 students, has been working in the
ecology area and making a video. We have
presented the project at various events (Figure 11).
Figure 10 Students looking at creatures caught in
pond-dipping samples
Figure 11 Showcasing the water project at a local fair
SSR September 2012, 94(346)
Science notes
The project has now mushroomed to include
more global aspects of water quality. We recently
had some really thought-provoking assemblies
with presentations to all year groups from the
charity Water Aid on their work in Bangladesh,
where water quality is a matter of life and death.
Following on from that, we are planning a series of
fundraising activities to support their work as well
as an activity day for years 7 and 8 on the theme of
water to raise and maintain awareness. The project
is thus now having a school-wide impact.
At this early stage, it all seems somewhat
daunting but also exciting. When I was at school I
knew that I wanted a career in scientific research.
When I left the pharmaceutical industry after
more than 15 years as a research microbiologist,
I thought my discovery days were over but
perhaps that was just the start. And what could
be better than working alongside young people to
inspire them to wonder at the natural world and
to encourage them to take responsibility for their
own part in it?
This is a revised and extended version of an
article that first appeared in Timstar’s Benchmark
magazine. There is plenty of advice and support
on running a club, including video case studies,
on the STEM Clubs Network website at www.
References for activities mentioned in the text
Useful websites
Soda snake fireworks:
Extracting iron on a pinhead:
Making plastic from milk and vinegar:
Modelling volcanoes: Payne, J. (2000) Geological changes.
In Teaching Secondary Chemistry, ed. McDuell, R.
London: John Murray.
Sucking eggs:
Balloon-bursting machine:
A Living Landscape project:
Animated rat dissection:
Science Enhancement Programme publications and
Catalyst magazine:;
Nuffield Foundation – Practical Chemistry: www.
Nuffield Foundation – Practical Physics: www.
Natural History Museum – Open Air Laboratories (OPAL)
Science Museum:
Institute of Physics (IOP): (Assocation for Science Education):
Woodland Trust:
Association for Science Education (ASE):
Microbiology in Schools Advisory Committee (MiSAC):
Royal Astronomical Society:
STEM Clubs Network:
Liz Carter is a senior science technician at The Warwick School, Redhill, Surrey. The Science/STEM
Club at The Warwick School was recently judged to be the best at the south-east regional Big Bang
Fair. Email: [email protected]
SSR September 2012, 94(346)

Similar documents