SEP: Matter and Change
Matter and Change is one of the publication themes of the Gatsby Science Enhancement Programme.
For other publication themes, visit the SEP homepage.
One of the most fundamental ideas that students should learn in science is that ‘stuff’ is made from atoms – the enormous variety of different kinds of materials that they see around them arises from a relatively small number of these building blocks.
The key to understanding this idea is the relationship between the properties of the materials that we can see and the particles of which the materials are composed. The concept of a substance lies at the heart of understanding chemistry.
For students, this idea is not innate, and cannot be left somehow to develop naturally. It is an abstract scientific idea that needs to be learned.
The booklet Stuff and Substance: Ten Key Practicals in Chemistry shows how practical work can support these ideas, and can be used alongside the Stuff and Substance multimedia package. This uses videos and animations to make the link between observed phenomena and underlying particle explanations.
Students need to understand how different states of matter can be explained by the behaviour of particles. Particles in Motion contains video clips and animations covering solids, liquids and gases, melting and boiling, freezing and condensation, kinetic theory of gases, distillation and chromatography.
Chemists observe reactions step-by-step and close up. Chemistry Captured: Video Materials for Teachers of Chemistry and Chemistry Captured II: Video Materials for Teachers of Chemistry offer students the opportunity to view a wide range of reactions at close range with the ability of pausing and replaying key features of each reaction, some of which are too hazardous for the classroom.
Students are fascinated by materials that behave in strange and unpredictable ways. Go with the Flow: Investigating Bouncy Fluids and Other Strange Materials and the Go with the Flow CD-ROM, which complements the original booklet, both look at materials with unusual flow properties and the science behind their behaviour.
Exploring viscosity is a particularly interesting area for student investigations. Investigative chemistry is a high profile topic, ranging from the analysis of crime scenes to testing the food we eat.
The Forensic Chemistry booklet looks at how the composition of samples can be analysed using a range of instrumental qualitative and quantitative techniques, including microscale techniques that can be used by students in the school laboratory.