ChemBOX 2017

ChemBOX is a really exciting project that we launched in 2017.  The boxes contain all the equipment and chemicals needed to run 6 of our ChemBAM experiments with a class of 32 students.

Our ChemBOX2017 project involved 10 schools in the Birmingham area. Each school received one of the boxes and we ran training sessions for the science teachers. We’ve also been invited by lots of the schools to run classroom sessions from Y7 to Y12, taking researchers and undergraduates to work with the school groups.

ChemBOX2017 was very kindly sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry, the University of Birmingham and Mark Astbury.

The feedback we’ve had from our first ChemBOX project has been amazing and we’ve been inspired by the fantastic teachers and pupils we’ve met on this project! Here are some of the comments we’ve had from pupils…

“It (chemistry) can be applicable in daily life, something I didn’t realise at the start”

“It was very interactive and it was nice to experience chemistry out of the curriculum”

“I found today’s lesson so interesting and Chemistry used to be my least favourite science… Now I wouldn’t mind taking it for A-Level and further”

Changing perceptions of chemistry

We studied the effect of the ChemBOX project by carrying out free word association activities. Pupils were arranged in groups of 3-4 and given an A3 sheet with the word ‘chemistry’ in the centre. They were then given 5 minutes to write words that they associate with chemistry. The words were collated and grouped and the results for the 20 highest frequency words are shown below.

Before activity

After activity

Word Frequency Word Frequency
chemicals 75 alginate 39
periodic table 58 medicine 33
experiments 45 iron 28
atoms 42 chemicals 22
medicine 41 polymer 21
elements 29 calcium 20
science 28 experiment 20
reaction 24 enjoyable 18
acid 18 fun 17
alkali 17 cancer 14
equations 17 interesting 14
molecules 15 acid 11
bonding 14 benign 11
mixtures 14 gel 11
compounds 13 alkali 9
chemist 12 malignant 9
cosmetics 12 reactions 9
explosion 12 biopolymers 8
fun 12 fluorescence 8
chemical reactions 11 industry 8

While this represents just a small intervention, it’s great to see how the mostly curriculum-focussed words before the ChemBOX activities are replaced by words that are focussed more on applications. There is a lot of evidence that the students enjoyed the activities as well. This is very positive as enjoyment of a subject is known to drive intrinsic motivation.