Put your practical skills to the test

Practical skills

Science demonstrations can be used in lots of different ways, whether it’s because you want to focus on a particular aspect of a practical, it might be a practical that’s unsafe for students to do or you’re modelling a practical for students to do it themselves.

Generally though, a demonstration will be linked to the curriculum and will be used for a specific learning point, it still needs to be engaging (otherwise students won’t remember it) and entertaining, but that’s often more of a side effect of an effectively presented demonstration. Occasionally though you can perform demonstrations as pure entertainment to enthuse and excite students (with some learning on the side, of course).

These demonstration lectures or shows can be for open evenings, school events or special occasions, such as Demo Day. Not only do they enthuse students, they can also be an effective advert for the science department and can show individual and departmental skills.

You could, in this context, create a theme for an event that ties science demonstrations together to hopefully create an atmosphere that engages students. Some other examples include common themes such as Harry Potter magic and science, firework nights or Halloween.

When you perform demonstrations either as a learning activity in a lesson linked to the curriculum or as a wider demonstration for open evenings, there are ways to increase the engagement of students. These include:

  • using (safe) props and (safe) costumes
  • having music playing, for instance the 1812 overture, the iodine clock or in complete silence, where student write down what happens
  • short stories and context to where the demo fits into real life, thermite reaction and railways
  • videos linking into real life contexts, sugar factory explosions and custard powder bombs
  • making sure there a discussion afterwards or use a strategy like Predict, Explain, Observe, Explain (PEOE) for pupils to think about what the demo will do and why

We will soon be launching a new suite of online CPD activities, focused around practical skills in biology, chemistry and physics. Keep your eyes peeled for more information!

Remember when performing and demonstration regardless of the context always do a risk assessment, and make sure you follow your employers health and safety guidance, always check with CLEAPSS or SSERC if you’re unsure. Lastly if you want to perform a demonstration show remember to practice it fully beforehand with support from colleagues.

Resources to help you bring practicals into science lessons:

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