RSC Widening Participation and Outreach Project

rcs logoDevelopment, delivery and evaluation of context-based learning widening participation activities for schools.

This longitudinal research study was initiated in 2014 by Dr Katy J McKenzie in collaboration with Professor Paul Cullis, Professor Emma Smith, Dr Zoe Fleming and Dr Dylan Williams. This project is led by Dr Barbara Villa Marcos. The project has received financial support from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Project aims

The project is built around a two-year-long programme of activities designed to enthuse students by giving them the opportunity to work on problems based on current research themes in chemistry, e.g. forensic science, atmospheric chemistry, green chemistry and medicinal chemistry. The activities will be based on realistic, research-focused problems which are solved by small groups. These have been designed to give students an experience of the problem-solving process used by practicing chemists in their everyday research. The problems will be run as a series of theory- and activity-based in-class workshops with dedicated teaching support provided by the University of Leicester.

Student outcomes

This project provides a programme of activities that will give students first-hand experience of current themes in chemical research in a context which will encourage the development of transferable skills.

Year 8 students work in small groups on an open-ended research problem which will reinforce core chemical concepts (e.g. chemical bonding and structure) as well as the communication skills that professional scientists depend on (e.g. the ability to communicate scientific concepts to the public).

In Year 9, the programme develops the themes introduced in Year 8 by getting students to work on problems which incorporate more sophisticated scientific concepts (such as green chemistry and the chemistry of life) and gives students experience in higher level communication skills (e.g. how to use the internet as an effective tool in chemical research).

The third cohort of the project started in January 2017. So far, nearly 3,000 students from local schools have participated in the project.