Sunlight, sherbet and soil – just a few of the things we’ve encountered over the last few weeks at our Science Clubs. We get together after school for fun with hands-on STEM activities, with years 7-8 and years 9 – 11 meeting on different days of the week.

The main focus of the year 7-8 group since Christmas has been the Bronze CREST Award with the 35 members of the club dividing up into small teams, investigating topics as diverse as “Do people prefer certainty or surprise?”, “Which type of paint is best for a pendant?” or “What would life be like without minerals?”. This particular project was taken from the MP Futures CREST project ideas.

Projects involving food were also popular and everyone enjoyed being subjects in the taste test experiments, especially the ones involving chocolate.

Once the research was complete the teams worked hard on their reports and gave presentations to a packed audience including teachers, parents and STEM ambassadors from local companies. The quality of the presentations and of the questions from the audience was amazing! We’re looking forward to taking two of the Bronze CREST projects to a regional Big Bang Science fair in July.

To celebrate successful completion of everyone’s award we had a party which included making our own sherbet. A few of the girls wondered what would happen if sherbet was added to a fizzy drink. The resulting eruption from their cup was both messy and spectacular! Luckily there were plenty of paper towels to hand. To continue the theme of mixing household chemicals we will be making our own watercolour paints as well as slime and fire extinguishers in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile Senior Science Club has been getting involved with three very different projects. They have been out on the school field, digging up squares of soil and counting all the worms and other invertebrates living there as well as recording all the bird species landing on the field. This is part of a national project led by the BTO to investigate the decline in certain bird species cross the UK. On sunny days we’ve been outside again, looking at how much ultraviolet light gets through certain fabrics or sunscreens as part of this year’s RSC global experiment. The cry of “three, two, one and sunbathe!” as they go out in the sun for each experiment makes us all smile.

On cloudy days we have been precipitating calcium carbonate under different conditions to make samples which will be examined by diffraction at the Diamond Light Source. We are lucky to be close to this national synchrotron science facility and are working with scientists there on a project looking at limestone and fossils. This week the girls learned how to get their powder into a sample tube only 0.5mm in diameter by using an electric toothbrush to help shake the powder down. We discovered it can take half an hour to get just 0.04g into the tube – quite a challenge for any impatient members of the group!

By Lynn Nickerson