Friday, August 17, 2018

Runny Liquids: testing viscosity

This week's activity can be found in the CIEC resource 'Runny Liquids' which can be downloaded from
The Activity 'Runny Measuring': 
  • Introduce the problem which is that children need to investigate the 'runniness' or viscosity of a selection of liquids (perhaps using the letter on page 19 of 'Runny Liquids').
  • Give the children a range of liquids to explore.  Can they predict and rank, which is the thickest and which is thinnest?
Sheet for children to record their predictions of the comparative viscocity of various liquids

  •  Explain that, as scientists, we need to collect some data, to see if our predictions are correct. Present children with a range of equipment (see suggestions below). Can the pupils come up with a test to measure how thick or thin the liquids are?
  • Allow children to design a test and have a go. (Possible suggestions for tests: you could measure the time taken for a marble to drop through a set volume of liquid or time how long a spoonful of liquid takes to run down an angled tray).
Children from Greengates School Stockton on Tees measuring the viscocity of a liquid.

  • Mini plenary discussions: What test did you come up with? What measurements did you take to compare the liquids? How can you make your tests fair? (Tip: Demonstrate an unfair test, using different volumes of liquids and discuss how it could be improved)
  • Give children the opportunity to evaluate and improve tests.  (Tip: If the volume of liquid chosen is too small, the range of results will be limited, so children could repeat with a larger volume and explore if this give a wider more accurate spread of results)
  • Test all liquids and record results.
Table for children to record their results

  • Collate class data.  This could perhpas be done during a maths lesson, taking an average of all of the results.
  • Look for patterns and draw conclusions. Which was the thinnest and which was the thickest liquid? Did all the groups get the same results/ order of liquids?  Why not? Have a class discussion regarding any differences and discuss what was tricky. (Tip: Use two different brands of one liquid, or different sizes of funnel or container so that a variable has been introduced that was not controlled. Can anyone spot something was not fair?)
  • Children present their data, draw conclusions and suggest improvements.
  • Refer back to the problem and the predictions. Were they right? Which liquids flow well?
  •  Relate to industry and everyday life. Discuss applications where viscosity is important (Food products like chocolate and ketchup, medicines, syrups, body lotions and glues). Discuss how might viscosity be measured in industry?
Suggested equipment:
A range of liquids of varying viscosities (e.g. washing up liquid, mouthwash, conditioner), measuring cylinders, funnels, marbles, small beakers or yoghurt pots, paint trays, pipettes, syringes or spoons, lolly sticks, timers

Links to the National Curriculum:

Y5 Properties and changes of materials:
'Compare and group together everyday materials on the basis of their properties'
'Give reasons, based on evidence, for the particular use of everyday materials'
'Find out about how chemists create new materials'

Opporunities for working scientifically
As they learn about the runniness, or viscosity, of liquids, children can work scientifically by
Selecting equipment
Designing a fair test and controlling variables.
Making systematic observations
Taking accurate measurements
Recording data
Looking for patterns
Drawing simple conclusions

What would happen if we pour the different liquids on top of each other? Would they mix up? Which liquid would sink to the bottom? Children could use their understanding of viscosity to explore if runniness is related to density by making their own density columns.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Exciting children about science; promoting industry for a secure future

Pupils from the North East have recently taken part in a Children Challenging Industry Celebration Event.
Children from four primary schools in Tees Valley and County Durham collaborated with industrialists from across the North East to help CIEC, celebrate it's highly successful outreach programme, Children Challenging Industry (CCI).
The celebration event was held at the Wilton Centre, Redcar. A wide range of demonstrations, exhibitions and talks showed how CCI has helped hundreds of primary school pupils, along with their teachers, to learn at close quarters about science based industries.

Children who have been involved in the CCI programme share their experiences with the audience at the Wilton Centre Redcar

Over the years, the CIEC team have worked with over sixty companies in the North East to ensure children receive balanced messages about the region’s industry and related careers. Over 45,000 children have been involved in this substantial project involving practical science work in school and a visit to a local site. This leads to greater understanding and more positive attitudes in children and their teachers. 

Philip Aldridge emphasised what a valuable part CCI played in shaping children's attitudes to industry and how important it was that industry continued to support the programme 
Over 80 attendees from past, present and potential future participants came together to celebrate the successful impact of this great initiative. Children and teachers from Newham Bridge Primary School in Middlesbrough, Bewley Primary School in Stockton, Chaloner Primary School in Guisborough and Heighington CE Primary School in Newton Aycliffe demonstrated recent practicals from CCI sessions.    

Staff from Fujifilm share their positive experiences of working with CCI
 Micropore Technologies, CPI and Fujifilm Diosynth, who host regular visits, also displayed what happens on the actual visits and talked about the benefits of being involved with CCI. 

Dai Hayward from Micropore Technologies spoke about the origins and background of the programme and the need for sponsors and donors to come forward to help us ensure its continuation and expansion.

 Information about Children Challenging Industry is available from or 01904 322 523.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Six goals to England; let’s celebrate turf!

England is celebrating Harry Kane’s hat trick and England’s 6-1 defeat of Panama

While England celebrates Harry Kane’s hat trick and England’s 6-1 defeat of Panama have you ever stopped to wonder about the role of turf in the game of football?  The vast majority of games still take place on grass, a plant so humble that it sometimes seems to have been assigned the role of honorary artificial surface on a par with asphalt, concrete and tarmac. Indeed, many children need reminding that grass is a plant at all!

This free CIEC resource consists of three investigations into the best ways to grow grass.  By the end of it children will understand that more than being just a plant, grass is a whole family of plants which look different from each other and have different qualities and that not all would be suitable for a football pitch.  The grass needed for a bowling green would not be hard wearing enough for example.

Children will understand that more than being just a plant, grass is a whole family of grasses which look different from each other and have different qualities

There are also lots of opportunities for working scientifically including planning fair tests and observations over time.  For example, in one activity children are asked investigate the effects of different drinks that are often spilled on grass in a range of municipal situations.  They are then invited to predict and compare the effect on grass of watering with a range of liquids.  In another they are asked to find out the optimal amount of water for healthy plant growth and in another to compare different growing mediums for a company which grows turf commercially.
Why not involve the whole family and set one of these investigations as a challenge over the summer holidays?
These activities have the potential to raise children’s science capital by helping them to understand the range of applications of science and how it impacts upon their current lives and interests.  If you set it as a challenge over the summer holidays you could even impact upon the science capital of the whole family.  Alternatively, you could take advantage of the lovely warm weather which is providing the perfect conditions for growing and experimenting on grass for an engaging end of term topic.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What is your school doing to prepare children for a life beyond education?

The role of primary schools  in developing children's aspirations is becoming increasingly recognised.
Teach First is working in collaboration with Education and Employers to understand the role of primary schools and teachers in preparing young people for future success beyond school. 
This research will be used to begin to define best practice and make recommendations for the support schools and teachers need. Please share your views to ensure the research is as reflective as possible of school and teacher voice.
The survey takes 7-10 minutes and closes on 29 June

This picture: Children on a CIEC site visit to Chemoxy
At the top of the page: Children from St Patricks enjoying a CCI lesson

Friday, May 25, 2018

School visit to Sartorius Stedim Biotech

Children are captivated when they see the sophisticated Computer Aided Design programme that is used when designing the machines that are built by Sartorius Stedim Biotech

After taking part in several science lessons which reinforce their understanding of the science learned in school, as well as preparing them to get the most out of the Children Challenging Industry (CCI) experience, children are ready for a visit to the company that they have been partnered with.  

The children from St Thomas More RC primary school have been partnered with Sartorius Stedim Biotech and recently the day of the eagerly anticipated visit to the Sartorius site in Royston arrived.  As soon as the coach pulled up children were given an introductory talk which reminded them of the work that they had been doing in school and how it related to what they would see at the Royston plant.

Children then went for a tour of the factory and were shown the different stages in the production and testing of the Ambr machines which are built at the site and used for growing the microbes that are needed to make some medicines.  The tour began with a demonstration of the sophisticated Computer Aided Design programmes that are used to design and test the machines.  The children were all given the chance to try manipulating the images on the screen.  As they left this department they were given a list of parts that they would need to collect in order to build their own pump.

Children watch the pump that they have built being tested

Next they were taken to the stores where they were amazed at the fully automated parts collection process; they only had to key in the serial number of the part that they needed to have it delivered to them by the machine!  They then took their parts to the department where the pumps are assembled and tested.  They worked as a team to build their pumps and then to progamme the machine to test it under several different conditions.  This was a tense moment for the children as they knew that the results of all the pumps were being recorded and compared.

Children watch a demonstration of a full scale Ambr in use.

For the last stage of the process children donned white coats as they took part in an activity which involved handling microbes.  They learned that you do not always need to wear white coats when doing science but only where there is a good reason.  This might be to protect themselves from micro-organisms or harmful substances - or it might be to protect the experiments; in this case the children need to be careful not to contaminate the yeast that they were working with, with dirt from either themselves or their clothes.

Wearing white coats so that they do not contaminate the samples.
The visit ended with a well earned snack as they found out how well their pumps had performed.  Afterwards children said how much they had enjoyed the visit and many said that it had made them think about pursuing a career in science.  It was also clear that children had revised some of their preconceptions about industry as before this experience many had had a very negative image.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Children Challenging Industry Class Visit

Children from St Thomas More RC primary school during a recent CCI lesson

In a previous blog post we described how Children Challenging Industry (CCI) schools participate in a staff meeting run by one of our advisory teachers.  Additionally, Y5 children from participating schools have the opportunity to visit a local industry where they see science in a real life context.  Prior to the industry visit the children enjoy a series of lessons, some of which are run by one of our advisory teachers.

The lessons are made up of several engaging practical activities which help children to understand the industrial scale processes that they will see taking place, and also helps them to make relevant links with the science that they do in school.  Su Mennie has been working with St Thomas More RC primary school prior to their visit to Sartorius Stedim Biotech in Royston.  The activities that she and their class teacher have been doing come from the CIEC resource Cough Syrup which can be downloaded for free from our website.

Sartorius Stedim Biotech make machinery which is used to grow the microbes that are needed to make the active ingredients in some medicines; these microbes then need to be filtered out of the liquid in which they are grown.  A relevant activity for the children involves testing different filters to see which would be most effective for harvesting the microbes, although instead of microbes the children filter flour from a mixture of flour and water.

The children worked in groups of three or four to choose their equipment and decide how they would measure the effectiveness of the filters being tested.  Some groups decided to time how quickly the substance passed through the filters while others devised a scale to measure the clarity of the water after it had passed through the filter.  Because the children were given a high amount of autonomy they did not always immediately work in the most efficient or accurate way.  However, this led to discussions within the group which were then picked up by Su towards the end of the session.  This approach leads to a much deeper understanding of, for example, the most important criteria for assessing the effectiveness of a filter, than if children had been following a more structured method which told them exactly what they had to do and how to present their findings.  The activity also gives the children a lot of opportunity to apply the materials strand of the Y5 science curriculum and to rehearse some of the vocabulary.

The session ended with children being given the opportunity to handle and talk about industrial scale filters and to discuss the qualities of the materials that they have been made of and the reasons for their shape.  At this point several children were keen to point out how they would like to be able to modify their experiments if they were to do them again.  This was a useful assessment opportunity for their teacher as it showed how they were able to apply their content knowledge to the situation as well as demonstrating their growing confidence in working scientifically.

Carefully pouring the mixture of flour and water into one of the filters

Friday, March 23, 2018

Job Opportunity at CIEC

If you live in the Hertfordshire area and would like a new challenge you may well be interested to learn that there is an opening for a new advisory teacher to join the CIEC team.  The vacancy is for two days a week and previous post holders have successfully combined it with a continued classroom commitment, although other advisory teachers make this their sole job.

Children working with science ambassadors as part of the CCI programme.

The successful candidate will be working with partner industries and schools on the Children Challenging Industry (CCI) project.  They will have the satisfaction of knowing that they are involved in an initiative that evidence has shown, over many years, has a measureable impact upon the aspirations and attitudes of primary school children.  You can read more about some of this work in Hertfordshire and in other areas in previous posts.

Children watch a science demonstration at the start of their visit to Johnson Matthey in Royston.

You can see more details in the job advertisement and in the candidate brief. The closing date for applications is April 4th.