Chemistry Gifted & Talented

Classroom teaching and School environment are powerful influences on student behaviour and learning.  Within Chemistry, we provide opportunity for every child to seek out and engage in learning at a level beyond that required by mainstream curricula. We nurture gifted pupils’ natural curiosity and this, in turn, achieves excellence.

Gifted and talented pupils have significant ability in some or all of the following areas:

General intellectual ability, Specific academic ability, Creative Thinking, Leadership ability

The Chemistry Department provides opportunity in all these areas via a variety of mechanisms.

Curiosity

We are fortunate to have the academic expertise and facilities to introduce pupils to a variety of imaginative experiments. These provide the perfect opportunity to challenge expected outcomes and present pupils with opportunity for creative problem solving, metacognitive skills, developing higher level creativity and of course – having fun. All that we do is linked to the fundamental principle upon which curiosity thrives – thirst for knowledge.

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Experimenting with dry ice

The department subscribes to New Scientist, Catalyst, Chemistry Review, Education in Chemistry, The Week, National Geographic and many other RSC publications, all of which are readily available to pupils.

Events

Caffeine Extraction Workshop – Bristol University – March 2016

In March, 16 gifted Year 10 Chemistry Students attended a Caffeine Extraction workshop at the University of Bristol. The Blundell’s students were meant to be sharing the world class facilities with another school but due to unforeseen circumstances they had the place to themselves. The students were lucky enough to have the full attention of three postgraduate Chemists as they extracted the caffeine from a breakfast tea bag. The students used a number of techniques using apparatus worth thousands if not millions of pounds. The day was essential experience for the young scientists and most importantly gave them a real insight into undergraduate Chemistry at a top University

Top Of The Bench – University of Bristol – Jan 2015

In January, four chemists participated in the Top of the Bench chemistry competition at Bristol University. The team consisted of George Hill (Year 11), Alfie Gardner (Year 10), Seb Albery (Year 9) and Anna Sides (Year 9). The day involved three assessed practical activities that not only tested the team’s knowledge of the subject, but also their organisational skills and ability to work well as a group. The team were feeling confident following the morning laboratory session, noting that the adjudicator seemed impressed with the timings of the colour change in their ‘Iodine Clock’ experiment. Following the break, the team was split into two pairs for the next session; with each pair attempting their own experiment. Both teams recorded some impressive results, with one gaining the maximum temperature change and the other producing results almost identical to those obtained by the University. The afternoon session was run by Dr Tim Harrison, who delivered a characteristically engaging lecture, packed full of exciting demonstrations. The team were fully deserving of achieving second place overall, a fantastic achievement! This placing is testament to their fantastic teamwork and brilliant practical skills during some challenging practical work which they would not have experienced before.

Salters Festival of Chemistry – Univeristy of Bath – May 2015

On 19th May, 3 Year 8s competed at the University of Bath in the Salters' Chemistry Challenge. Sophia Marr, Matilda Huntingford and Jasper Pring, accompanied by Miss Davies, sat 2 practical challenges during the course of the day. In the morning session, they made accurate observations to identify chemical unknowns, justifying their choices with logical reasoning. The afternoon saw the trio having to determine the optimum reacting masses of bicarbonate with citric acid to get an exact temperature in 1 minute from the substances being mixed. Despite having succeeded on a practice run, when adjudicated, the team were 1 degree off, which unfortunately took them out of the running for prizes. Before departing, 2 University scientists produced some exciting demos, including the 'growing volcano'. All 3 hugely enjoyed the event and ended the day polishing off a packet of rocky road bites on the journey home.

Salters Festival of Chemistry – Bath University – May 2014

Marcus Lloyd, Byron Knowles, Max Baker and Victor Mills were chosen to represent Blundell’s in the Salters regional practical Chemistry competition held at Bath University. The day was described by Victor Mills:

Salters Competition, 2014On the 22nd of May: me, Max Baker, Byron Knowles and Marcus Lloyd (accompanied by Mr Mead) went to Bath University for one of the Salter’s festivals of chemistry. When we arrived we were moved in to the University Chemistry lab for briefing. We were given two tasks to do in the day one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The task for the morning was to discover who the mysterious thief called ‘The Blot’ actually was using chromatography and reactions white powder. At the end of the morning our group came to a conclusion Nigella Awesome was the culprit, both the ink samples and the white powders matched. Then after a very nice packed lunch we headed back into the lab. This time the challenge was to find a way to lower the temperature of water to 10.5 degrees after one minute with bicarbonate of soda and citric acid (lemon juice in powder form) to save the tardis from overheating. Unfortunately when it came to the final test we missed the mark and lowered the temperature to low to 9.5 degrees despite hitting 10.5 in previous attempts. After that there was a small awards ceremony in which all the teams received a bag containing a pen, wristband and a sticker for all of the team. Also they gave out the awards for the top three in ‘The Blot’ challenge but even though our team reached the correct answer we did not receive any awards. For the ‘save the tardis’ task a few teams got to 10.5 degrees and so won the awards. At the end of the day there was a demonstration from two of the Chemistry lecturers showing some incredible reactions including making a miniature sun with white phosphorous. Even though our team did not get any awards it was still a fun and interesting day that we all enjoyed.

Lower 6th Analyst Competition – Bristol University – February 2014

Analyst Competition, 2014Participants: Grace Curtis, Ben Charles, James Perring

After an early start, the team of 4 (Ben, Grace, James and our mentor and taxi driver, Mr Mead) set off for Bristol University Chemistry department. Having been to the department before, we were all aware of the potential complexity of the chemistry that we would have to deal with throughout the course of the day. On arrival it was obvious that we had a lot of competition, with at least 20 schools all present as we entered the building. Straight away, we suited up (with lab coats, gloves and safety glasses) and were presented with our task.

The first practical experiment was the Iodine clock challenge; in this reaction two solutions are mixed, and a delayed colour change occurs. The challenge was to dilute the solutions with enough water that the colour change occurred as close to 40, 50 and 60 seconds as possible. The only way to achieve this was trial and error, creating a task that was not particularly mentally or technically challenging, but more required accuracy and patience. However, having a severely unreliable stopwatch was not helpful! Eventually, after an almost-disastrous moment when I nearly diluted the solution with acetone instead of water, I managed to get all three measurements inside the second in front of the judges.

The second experiment was essentially analysing bleach from 2 different supermarket brands. Firstly, we added Potassium Iodide (KI) to an equal volume of Sulphuric Acid, before pouring in a limited volume of one of the bleaches to convert the Hypochlorite ion to Iodine. I could now titrate my new solution containing Iodine with Sodium Thiosulfate solution. By adding a couple of cubed centimetres of starch to my ‘new’ solution I could accurately tell when the Iodine is used as starch and iodine react to form a blue-black colour. Therefore when the Iodine had been used up leaving just Iodide ions the blue-black complex would fade to a colourless solution, which is when I’d stop my titration; and measure the amount of Sodium Thiosulfate needed to achieve this.

I could then work out the moles of Sodium Thiosulfate needed in each of the different bleaches to convert Iodine to Iodide and so the relative strength of the bleaches based on the amount of hypochlorite ions in the bleach that originally turned the Iodide ions (from the KI solution) to Iodine.

After we had finished our experiments and demolished our packed lunches, it was time for a demonstration from one of the postgraduate students in the lecture theatre. This included passing around Dry Ice (solid CO2), smashing flowers dipped in liquid nitrogen and blowing up hydrogen filled balloons (which is always a favourite). And then, it was the moment we had all been waiting for, the results. And, in a very admirable 3rd place…you guessed it, Blundell’s School, the highest placing Blundell’s have ever achieved. Mr Mead was thrilled! It was altogether a very entertaining and rewarding day out, thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Chemistry Society

Chromium III oxide catalysed oxidation of ammoniaThe department runs Chemistry Clubs where pupils have the opportunity to design and carry out experiments. They quite often produce impressive photos!

Lectures in the purpose built Chemistry lecture theatre and 6th form Chemistry Seminars in the Beale Centre promote the application of cognitive and higher order development. Reverend Ron Lancaster, founder of Kimbolton Fireworks company gave a memorable lecture of Fireworks. It proved so popular he was persuaded to return.

We enjoy close links with Bristol University Chemistry Department. Pupils attend seminars at Bristol and we enjoy lectures here at Blundell’s, including an excellent demonstration from Tim Harrison, the University’s Bristol ChemLabS School Teacher Fellow.

The Chemistry department thrives on facilitating the provision of opportunity for all. This positive learning environment provides ample opportunity for pupils to perform at a level of excellence which defines gifted and talented.

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