Accessibility statement

Key Stage 4

Activities and Events

Chemical Supermodels

Using Molymod kits and pictorial instructions to build models of a wide variety of molecules, from simple gases to complex drug molecules involving tens of atoms.

Chemistry at Work

This is one of Yorkshire’s best established events for young people, part of a wider objective to support the advancement of the chemical sciences.  Hosted annually in the University of York YSOC labs the event attracts around 500 young people from Key Stages 3 and 4. Through a series of hands-on interactive workshops and demonstrations, students are introduced to chemistry in an industrial context - linked to their learning and curriculum - and shown the wide range of career opportunities and pathways available.

NYBEP run the York event on behalf of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Details of the national Chemistry at Work series can be found on the RSC website.

Chemistry Careers Talk - Why Study Chemistry?

When students are studying for their GCSEs (or equivalent) they may not yet be thinking about their options in the future. Many are not aware of the opportunities available to them. There is a widely held belief that all chemists wear white coats and that a degree in chemistry can only lead to a life in the lab. We can present a short talk, which shows students that this is not true; pointing out why students may wish to study chemistry at university and alerting them to the wide variety of career opportunities a chemistry degree opens up, both inside and outside the world of science. Importantly we include information about sensible choices of post-16 subjects that will keep their scientific options open in the future.

Chemistry on Cue

Can you make a chemical “clock” that changes colour on cue? This activity uses the iodine clock reaction to explore reaction rates.

Colourful Chemistry - Demonstration Lecture

How have chemists brought colour to our lives? Why do chemists use colour to help them understand the world around them? What makes fireworks look so pretty? The answers to these and other burning questions will be answered in this exciting lecture, delivered by Dr Annie Hodgson from the University of York. Prepare to be amazed as colours change before your eyes, but don’t be surprised by the odd flash or bang along the way.

CSI-The Great Jewel Robbery

Barchester Grange, the home of Lady Agatha Ponsonby-Smallpeace, has been burgled. The safe in the study was opened and a collection of jewellery, worth an estimated £750 000, was taken. There are a number of clues at the scene, which may point to the identity of the main suspect for the crime. Chromatography can be used to compare black ink from a note left at the crime-scene with the ink from pens belonging to the suspects. Using microscopy, slides of fibres taken from the clothes of all the suspects can be compared to samples taken from the scene of the crime, to see if any matches can be found.

Discovering DNA and Molecules for Life

There are three parts to these activities, which can be delivered together or separately to create workshops of varying lengths. The activities involve model building, bracelets (“my name in genetic code”) and extracting DNA from kiwi fruit.
1) The most popular workshop takes about an hour and incorporates a lecture about the structure and function of DNA (fully illustrated). There is then a model-building workshop, led using a computer-animated version of the exercise. The model kits used are produced by Molymod. We build a sense strand of DNA (nine bases long) starting with nucleotides. By base-pairing we complete the molecule. We then use the anti-sense strand to make m-RNA and from that pick the three transfer RNA molecules required to bring in the three amino acids to build the tripeptide coded for by the gene. Each pair of students has a different sequence and were the sequences to be joined together it would produce the first part of the gene for the beta-strand of haemoglobin. This gene has been chosen, because quiet near the start is the position for the point mutation that leads to sickle cell anaemia.
2) A slightly longer (add about 15 min) version of the workshop has the activities above plus an exercise to make a bracelet in which the students each write their name in genetic code (the 4 bases being represented by 4 different colours of beads.) This is a bit of fun, it reinforces the message of the triplet code and the students are allowed to keep the bracelet.
3) The longest version of the workshop takes half a day and incorporates 1, 2 (if required) and a wet-lab exercise in which we extract DNA from kiwi fruit. This is incorporated into the other exercises in order to accommodate an incubation step. The workshop requires separate areas to do the dry exercises away from the wet benches (the kiwi exercise can get very messy).

Incredible Indigo

This workshop takes about half a day (but is best if it can be done with a lunch break half way through to allow the sample of indigo to dry). The practical is in two parts. In the first part there is a brief introduction to indigo and then we synthesise some indigo. In the second part we weigh the (hopefully) dry sample of indigo (to calculate the yield), before reducing it to its soluble form, which we use to tie-dye a piece of fabric and then watch it oxidise back to the dark blue form. The nice thing about this practical is that students get to keep the fabric as a reminder of the activity. As an extension activity, students can calculate the atom economy of the reaction.

Just a Minute

Blowing the tops off film canisters with sodium hydrogen carbonate (bicarbonate of soda), citric acid and water. This is great fun, but not for those with a nervous disposition! If it is dry weather, you can do this outside as it is rather messy, but it is fine indoors with care. The challenge is to work out how much of each of the ingredients is required to blow the lid off the film canister in exactly one minute.

Science Trail

This is an annual event in which school parties spend a day at the University of York campus taking part in a range of activities delivered by the various science departments (including chemistry). Accompanying teachers are offered a day of Continuing Professional Development at the National Science Learning Centre.

The Science Trail usually takes place every year in March.

More details are available on the University of York Science Trail webpage.

Spectroscopy in a Suitcase (SIAS) - Infrared

These infrared spectroscopy activities are designed for post-16 students and those aspiring to study chemistry beyond GCSE level. Note that these activities are only available at times when we can access the University of York’s chemistry teaching laboratory in order to be able to use the instruments.

As an alternative, schools may wish to book a Spectroscopy in a Suitcase (SIAS) kit from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). The SIAS scheme provides equipment and resources to use in schools, enabling students to get hands-on experience of spectroscopic techniques. 

Formula 1 diagnostics

Infrared spectroscopy is routinely used to check the performance of and locate faults in Formula 1 racing cars. Students run IR spectra of fluids leaked from cars to identify where the faults might be, through pattern matching with sample spectra.

Festival drug testing

Those policing large music festivals use infrared spectroscopy to quickly identify substances that may potentially be illegal drugs. Run IR spectra of a range of white powders to identify them by pattern matching with sample spectra.

Drug purity

Infrared spectroscopy is used to check the purity of pharmaceutical products. Use IR to find out if the samples of aspirin or paracetamol you have synthesised are pure or contain contaminants.

What’s in the pot?

Traces of materials have been extracted from fragments of pot found at an archaeological site. Try to identify them by comparing their infrared spectra with those you run of drinks and foodstuffs that might have been stored in the pots.

The art of chemistry

Infrared spectroscopy is a non-destructive technique that can be used to help identify materials (such as paints, pigments and varnishes) used in fine works of art. This is useful to those restoring artworks, as well as those trying to spot fakes!

Spectroscopy in a Suitcase (SIAS) - Ultraviolet-visible

Light comes in a rainbow of colours and can tell us so much about the universe around us. Spectroscopy is a way to investigate these colours, revealing the chemistry happening in a test tube or in a galaxy far away. Using a portable Spectroscopy in a Suitcase kit, originally developed by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), participants can engage with a range of demonstrations to discover the properties visible and ultraviolet (UV) light.

For further details about SIAS you can look at the RSC Spectroscopy in a Suitcase website where there are some resource packs available to download. It is envisaged that more teaching materials will be added to the site, so if you produce any resources using the SIAS kit that you would like to share, please let us know.

Even more resources relating to SIAS are available from the RSC SpectraSchool website, and from there you can find information about many other fascinating areas of chemistry.

What has Chemistry ever done for us? - Talk

Who is responsible for a doubling of human life expectancy? Who has revolutionised Olympic and Paralympic sport? Who has enabled us to watch television on our mobile phones? Who can tell how old archaeological remains are? Who can predict what will happen to our planet in the future? The answer to all of these questions is chemists. Find out how, in this whistle-stop tour through the world of chemistry.


A Question of Cooling

A Question of Cooling Pic

These materials help students to gain an understanding of a number of scientific ideas through investigating how a refrigerator works.






Captain of Industry

Captain of Industry Pic

A challenge for students to develop an understanding of the use of energy and raw materials including strategies for the profitable operation of manufacturing in the United Kingdom. Students gain an understanding of how science is used in an industrial context.




Dental Dilemmas

Dental Dilemmas Pics

This resource looks at the testing of materials in the context of dentistry. Students first look at the properties of teeth and the nature of toothache before going on to test materials for a range of physical properties.




Essential Chemical Industry

Essential Chemical Industry Pic

The new, fully revised Online Edition includes detailed information about the uses and manufacture of a wide range of chemicals. This book is used by teachers and students, various examination boards in the preparation of exam questions, and by the chemical industry to 'plug the gaps' in the knowledge and experience of new recruits.




Fit To Drink

Fit To Drink Pic

These activities look at the analysis of drinking water quality. The unit is suitable for use with students who have prior knowledge of the water cycle and of simple water treatment by filtration and chlorination.





Frozen Assets

Frozen Assets Pic

This activity engages students to consider the responsible use of chemicals and to analyse the impact of a product through all the stages in its life. In this context, students compare different de-icers that might be used on roads in winter. They consider the costs and other factors involved before selecting de-icers for use in some sensitive locations.




Green Chlorine

Green Chlorine Pic

These materials help students understand the underlying principles of electrolysis and how this process is used in the manufacture of chlorine from brine (salt solution). Students see how the technology has developed and changed the efficiency of the process.




Greener Industry

Greener Industry Pic

This web site includes information on many chemical industrial processes. It highlights the changes being made by the industry to reduce the environmental impact of manufacture and use.



Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate Pic

These activities help students to investigate the absorption of radiation, heat transfer and heat capacity.






Inclusive Science

Inclusive Science Pic

This book looks at providing opportunities in science for students with specific learning needs. As well as advice and guidance, it includes details of a range of practical activities and investigations.





Industry Animated

Industry Animated Pic

Industrial processes such as filtering, cooling and heat exchangers are brought to life on this website. The animated pictures illustrate clearly and simply the principles on which the processes are based and additional notes are available for free download.



Let Sleeping Bags Lie

Let Sleeping Bags Lie Pic

This series of activities investigates heat transfer and the thermal insulation properties of sleeping bags. Detailed teacher guidance and student activity sheets are provided in the materials.






Magnox Pic

These materials look at nuclear fission and nuclear reactors. The activities examine the trend in reactivity of the metals in group II of the periodic table, and include a brief study of isotopes in relation to nuclear fission and nuclear fusion reactions.





Molecules Matter

Molecules Matter Pic

The role played by chemicals in modern life is the theme of this resource, designed to support science, general studies and citizenship. All resources, including lesson plans and a 6 minute video clip, may be freely downloaded from this site. It also includes a regularly updated section with links to news articles on the topics covered.


Plastics: Guide to Workshop Practices

Plastics – Workshop Practices Pic

This booklet looks at working practices in industry and schools relating to thermoplastics and provides an introduction to basic techniques for schools and the more common processes found in industry.





Product Design: Pop Bottles

Product Design: Pop Bottles

These materials relate to the choice of materials and production processes involved in the manufacture of plastic bottles for carbonated drinks.





Product Design: Sleeping Bag

Product Design: Sleeping Bags

Students carry out an investigation of the design and manufacture of sleeping bags as a product analysis exercise to investigate the properties of polymers in relation to the design.





Product Design: Sport Shoes

Product Design: Sport Shoes

These activities deal with the different stages of market research, product design, selection of materials and manufacturing processes in the sports shoe industry.





Recycling Cities

Recycling Cities Pic

These activities help students to examine the recycling of materials and focus on the properties of plastics, purifying components of a mixture, waste disposal and sustainable development.






Risk-Ed Pic

Are you a tiger or a mouse when it comes to risk? This stimulating website is aimed at pupils and adults of all ages and explores a wide range of issues related to hazard and risk. Learn how hazards are measured and the types of hazard that exist such as chemical and environmental hazards and discuss whether or not some risks are worth taking.

Science Special Needs Supplement

Science Special Needs Supplement Pic

A range of science investigations that have been adapted for secondary-school students with particular learning needs. In these activities appropriate teaching and learning strategies allow special needs students to play a full part within science activities.





Sustainability-Ed Pic

A free access website that examines many of the issues surrounding sustainability. Includes case-studies on waste disposal, electric vehicles, cotton/polyester and PVC.



Sweet Success

Sweet Success Pic

This activity investigates the source of complaints about apparent pieces of 'glass' in cream eggs, and other sugar confectionery. Students explore causes of the problem and also the role of chemical engineers in finding a solution.





Understanding Food Additives

Understanding Food Additives Pic

The forerunner of the Understanding Food Additives web site, this resource contains information on a range of food additives and extensive suggestions for practical activities.






Key Stage 4 Picture
Indigo Pic
Burette KS4 Pic
DNA Spire Pic
Clock Reaction KS4 Pic