Lord Wandsworth Leaderboard

‘Launching Rockets Across The School Hall Is Another Fun Experiment …’

Published on isbi School News dated Monday 6th of March 2023

BGS’s Head of Chemistry, Rob Moody, has been teaching chemistry for 15 years, in the state, FE and independent sectors. He explains why he loves to share his passion for ‘blowing things up’ with the wider community through his chemistry outreach roadshow.

I’ve loved science for as long as I can remember. A great thing about chemistry, and one of the things I enjoy doing, is showing off! I’m so lucky as a chemistry teacher because when it comes to it, we can always start blowing things up! I say this as a joke, but it’s true! At Christmas for example, instead of watching a film in lesson as a treat, I like to set fire to things – I love doing the exciting stuff.

As I’ve trundled through my career, I’ve built up a repertoire of demonstrations that me and my students love doing, and over the last 20 years, I’ve also been lucky enough to go to demonstration lectures, where experts do exciting things with various combinations of chemicals. With these in my arsenal, my love of science keen to be shared, and a chat with the headmaster, we agreed to celebrate our strengths and share this passion with others. It was from here that the chemistry outreach roadshow was born.

My first chemistry outreach activity was just before the pandemic. I trialled it at my daughters’ school, The Wharton’s Primary School in Otley for Years 5 and 6 (with the addition of my daughters who were lower down the school but insisted they wanted to see it!). And it was a great success – I loved it, the staff loved it but most importantly, the children loved it. I did a spontaneous combustion experiment which culminated in a burst of flames! I also did some simple, large scale colour changes which is great for interaction and participation. Launching rockets across the school hall is also another fun experiment which the children thoroughly enjoy.

The roadshows are also about being hands-on. It’s not about just knowing a load of stuff. It’s about doing and being able to do. And science is for everyone. It’s doing. It’s not about sitting and passively learning new facts. It’s fun, interactive, and engaging. It’s all well and good watching an experiment on YouTube, which many children like to do, but if we take something like the elephant’s toothpaste experiment for example and show it to a group of primary school children, it’s better seeing loads of foam squirting everywhere and hitting the ceiling live and in person, than it is seeing it on a screen. It really makes a difference in how science is experienced.

My latest roadshow was last year for Years 5 and 6 pupils at Lindley Junior School in Huddersfield, and I’m hoping to go back again this year as they’ve invited me back to deliver my ‘show’ to the latest cohort of Year 5 children. I’d love to take my little chemistry roadshow to more schools – it’s just finding the time to fit it all in!

Alongside the outreach programme, I have also been involved with the Otley Science Festival. During my first visit, I blew up some hydrogen and people loved it. So, I did it again last autumn, but this time I had a larger space, enabling more visitors to do more hands-on chemistry. We made pH rainbows which most of the younger children hadn’t experienced before. Younger and older children, plus adults all took part and a great time was had by all.

I also share my love of science via TikTok where I share demonstrations, experiments, science facts and jokes on a platform that older students engage in. My GCSE students particularly love it. They love that I’m occupying a space in their world – in an educational and non-invasive way. It’s on their terms if they want to watch my content and they find it rather amusing. I like the idea of a bit of chemistry sneaking in between the likes of Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber (or whoever is famous nowadays)! If I can make chemistry fun in a short and snappy way or remind someone that they have a piece of homework or revision to do, then it’s all worth it.

I know it sounds daft, but I just want children to like chemistry. I want students to turn up in my room on the first day of Year 7 and be so excited about chemistry – I want them to know it’s going to be great and interesting.

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