IOP education team launch quick classroom activities

To coincide with British Science Week, we are unveiling a new suite of quick demonstrations and practicals for teachers to use in the classroom.

Each demonstration or class activity is easy to set up, requires minimal kit and takes less than 20 minutes to run. They range from toppling bottles to explore the ideas of stability and centre of gravity to the wonderful slink-o-scope, a mechanical analogue of the oscilloscope. The resources are hosted on IOPSpark, our teacher website at

The project was funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation’s Good Practical Science initiative which is committed to supporting practical science in schools and colleges. Gatsby recommends that students should experience a practical activity in at least half of their science lessons.  

The reality in schools sometimes does not match this aspiration, said IOP school engagement manager Taj Bhutta.

Practical science improves understanding of theory, develops skills and engages students

He explained, “We know that there is a lot of material for teachers to get through and so fitting a practical into fifty per cent of lessons can be challenging. But we also know that practical science improves understanding of theory, develops important skills and engages students by showing them what scientific experimentation is all about.

“This is what motivated our quick practical project. With seed funding from Gatsby we’ve started collecting together a set of quick demos and class practicals that take 20 minutes or less to perform, but are still rich in physics. Many require minimal kit and prep, and so even if you are operating on a shoestring with little technician support you can still use them.”

Each one includes a clear purpose in the form of a suggested learning outcome and questions for teachers to use to promote class discussion. Covering all the domains of physics and spanning the 11 to 19 age group, we have also created supporting videos and visuals for display on the board.

The Gatsby Foundation funding came from an initiative following its 2017 report Good Practical Science. Written by Professor Sir John Holman, president of the Association for Science Education, the report set out to answer the question: What does good practical science look like. It defines a framework of benchmarks for good practical science to guide science departments.

The ingredients of good practical science are the ingredients of good science learning – expert teachers, well-planned lessons and technical support

Gatsby’s Rob Cremona said, “Strikingly, many of the ingredients of good practical science are also the ingredients of all good science learning – expert teachers, well-planned lessons and technical support. So, much of what relates to good science teaching in general. John and his team also found that world-class practical science should be both frequent and varied in type, which is why they have supported the IOP to make it easier to bring well-planned and enriching practical activities into the classroom even if time is short.”

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