School of Chemistry

Activities for Primary Schools


Schools Science Fair

Each year for National Science and Engineering Week children in Years 5-6 from local primary schools are invited to the University to participate in fun science activities. The children work with research scientists and participate in a range of ‘hands-on’ experiments to promote an interest in science and encourage them to follow that in their studies at school and beyond.

Among other activities the children find out how fruit and flowers can be frozen instantly with liquid nitrogen, make their own ‘slime’ whilst learning a little about polymers along the way, and watch a little modern day ‘alchemy’ where copper two pence pieces are turned into ‘gold’.



Visits to local primary schools 

Staff and students of the School of Chemistry can deliver a science activity in your classroom!

There are two activities available:

The Slick Side of Science – for Year 5 

Colourful Chemistry – for Year 6 

The number of visits is limited and filled on a first-come first served basis. Please contact the Public Awareness Scientist to book a visit for your school.

For either activity, the following resources required from the school: use of classroom computer and data projector to show PowerPoint presentation; use of water andaccess to a sink; newspaper/absorbent covering for work surfaces. Children should be asked to wear aprons/old shirt over their uniforms. The Public Awareness Scientist will provide all experimental resources.

Safety: All the materials used in the experiment can be bought “off-the-shelf” and pose no health risk. All the equipment is plastic.

The Slick Side of Science

The activity begins with a talk and slideshow, with plenty of interaction with the class as they are asked about the uses of crude oil and how it is obtained.

Environmentally friendly oil spill experiment – The children get into groups and create their own “sea” by adding a little blue food colouring to water in a large plastic container. They then create “crude oil” by mixing vegetable oil and cocoa powder together, and slowly pour this onto the surface of the sea to create an oil slick. Using a range of household materials e.g. sponge, cotton wool, and paper towel, they attempt to clean the spill up and compare how well each material does so, by giving each one a score. Once they have cleaned the spill up as best they can, they put some feathers into the water, and discover that the feathers are not covered in oil – they have therefore cleaned the spill up successfully! This aids their understanding of the environmental issues involved when an oil spill occurs.

Target age range: Year 5 (10 year olds).

Group size: one school class (approx. 25-30 children), divided into six groups.

Length of activity: 1.5 hours.


Colourful Chemistry

This activity looks at the use of colour in many everyday applications, and how it is we can see different colours. The interactive talk in interspersed with hands-on activities, from ink chromatography to making colourful milk using food dyes. There is also a demonstration of a chemical reaction called ‘Traffic Lights’ that changes colour: this is carried out by a trained chemist and is fully risk assessed.

Target age range: Year 6 (11 year olds).

Group size: one school class (approx. 25-30 children).

Length of activity: 1 hour

School of Chemistry

University Park Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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