Chemistry Teaching Laboratory Workshops

The undergraduate teaching laboratories at the University of Oxford are world-class, providing unparalleled facilities for our students. Outside of term-time and on a very limited number of days in term, these laboratories are made available to school teachers and young people of school age to support their study of the chemical sciences. You can find details of available workshops and activities on our 'What's On?' page. 
 
Location
The new Chemistry Teaching Laboratories (Tel: 01865 281505) are located just off South Parks Road.  However, due to current building works, the CTL is accessed via Mansfield Road, using the postcode OX1 3SR.
ctl map
Regrettably, we are unable to provide parking for visiting schools or students. Please see ‘How to get to Oxford’ for further information on travelling to Oxford.
 
Catering
Food is not provided for visiting groups (unless otherwise stated in the event information); you will need to bring your own packed lunches/snacks. There is seating and tables in the CTL foyer, a drinking water fountain, as well as a vending machine that can be used by groups booked to visit the CTL for a workshop / organised activity.
 
Bag storage
Lockers are provided for use by visiting groups. A limited number of padlocks are available from reception for teachers wishing to store valuables.
 
Photographs and social media
Visiting teaching staff have found that images taken in the laboratory make good copy for school websites, newsletters and social media and you are welcome to take photographs in the CTL. The University of Oxford is keen to promote its outreach activities through the use of photographs taken with visiting groups. Please read and sign the accompanying consent form found in our Health and Safety tab.
 
Health and Safety
Visitors to the CTL are required to read and abide by the Health and Safety information for visitors and visiting groups. Please ensure you read the Health and Safety information on this site, and download and sign the accompanying consent form. Please note that the CTL staff reserve the right to refuse entry to any student or staff who is not dressed appropriately for working in a laboratory.
 
Risk Assessments
Risk assessments are available for all of our workshops and will be sent out on confirmation of a workshop booking. Please contact outreach@chem.ox.ac.uk if you require an additional copy.
 
A pdf copy of the information above can be downloaded here
Visitors to the CTL are required to read and abide by the Health and Safety information for visitors and visiting groups, below. 
 
If you have booked a CTL workshop and are visiting as a school group, please download and sign the group consent form.
If you have booked a CTL workshop and are visiting as a solo student, please download and sign the solo consent form. Please note, we only accept bookings from solo students if you are unable to be accompanied by their teacher and are the sole student from your school. You must be over 16 yrs old.  
Your data will be processed according to our privacy policy
 
Please note that the CTL staff reserve the right to refuse entry to any student or staff who is not dressed appropriately for working in a laboratory.
 
General Safety
Sensible, acceptable behaviour is expected at all times and is the responsibility of the teacher in charge of the visit. Visiting students who fail to follow basic safety rules may be asked to leave the laboratory. 
 
Acceptable Clothing for Laboratory Work
Sensible clothing is expected and the Department reserves the right to refuse entry to anyone who does not conform. Clothing should be thick enough that it protects the skin against spilled substances. School uniform is only considered acceptable if it adheres to these rules:
•    No bare flesh should be visible once a lab coat is worn, other than hands and face. 
•    No sandals, open top shoes (e.g. ballerina pumps) or high heels. 
•    Wear long trousers or jeans (no shorts, short skirts, tights, leggings, cropped trousers, ripped jeans). 
•    Ensure ankles are covered (no trainer socks). 
•    Long hair must be tied up
Safety glasses and laboratory coats will be provided by Oxford University Chemistry Department.
 
Additional Lab Rules
•    No food or drink is to be consumed (including gum and medication) in the labs.
•    No cosmetics or skin preparations may be applied.
•    Hands must be washed after leaving the laboratory.
 
Special Requirements
To prepare our demonstrators effectively for the visit please inform us of any specific needs of students in your group. This includes specific physical requirements or special educational needs.
We regret that crutches are not permitted in the laboratory as they cause a trip hazard.  
We have accessible spaces for wheelchair users, which can be prepared with advance warning.
 
Risk Assessments
Risk assessments are available for all of our workshops and will be sent out on confirmation of a workshop booking. Please contact outreach@chem.ox.ac.uk if you require an additional copy.

 

Visiting students are asked to submit their details to our HEAT database. The information the University of Oxford collects and records in HEAT means that we can assess whether the outreach activities we fund and deliver make a difference to the education and career choices that young people make. This information will never be used by the University of Oxford to contact you for marketing any kind of product, service or university course, and we will never allow anybody else to use it for this purpose.

Full details of how we use the data you provide can be found in our privacy notice at the start of our collection form.

Click for the HEAT Collection Form 

Sugar Rainbow

Audience          
Years 4-6, mixed ability
 
Duration:           
45-60 minutes

 

Workshop Description

Students make sugar solutions of different concentrations and colour them using food colouring.  They then use them to make a density column in a test tube, with a challenge to see how many different layers they can create.

Concepts covered

  • density
  • miscibility of liquids (whether they mix or form layers)
  • states of matter – liquids (addressing the common misconception that all liquids are water-based)
  • properties of materials – miscibility is an extension on the concept of solubility

Skills covered

  • careful handling of chemicals
  • planning scientific enquiries to answer questions
  • recording data
  • using test results to make predictions

Prior learning required
Students may have some experience of recording data in a table of results. 

Further study ideas

  • Application: Can you make layers using liquids found in the kitchen (golden syrup, milk, water, vegetable oil).
  • Application: Make lava lamps using vegetable oil, water and food colouring. 
  • Mystery: Egg which floats in salt water but sinks in pure water – can students work out what the trick is?
  • Mystery: Raisins in lemonade – why do they float and then sink again? 
  • Investigation: how much washing up liquid is needed to make oil and water mix?
  • Investigation: How do solids float differently in different liquids?  Does shape matter?

 


Chill-out Challenge

Audience
Year 5-6, mixed ability
 
Duration            
60-90 minutes

 

Workshop Description

Students investigate how the mass of sodium bicarbonate added to a citric acid solution affects the drop in temperature.  More advanced students are challenged to find the correct mass of sodium bicarbonate to get a target temperature drop.  

Concepts covered

  • chemical reactions / non-reversible changes
  • household chemicals
  • energy changes - endothermic reactions

Skills covered

  • careful handling of chemicals
  • planning scientific enquiries to answer questions
  • recording and processing data (inc graph drawing)
  • using results to make predictions
  • measuring changes in temperature
  • numeracy - subtraction with numbers to 1 decimal place

Prior learning required
Students should have some experience of recording data in a table of results. 

Further study ideas

  • Extension: Use a temperature probe attached to a computer to show how the temperature changes over time.  
  • Extension: Investigate exothermic reactions in a similar way
  • Extension: Investigate other common substances, such as a vitamin tablet / alka seltzer tablet / some sherbert mixed with water.

 

Chill-out Challenge

Audience
Year 7-9, mixed ability
 
Duration            
60-90 minutes

 

Workshop Description

Students investigate how the mass of sodium bicarbonate added to a citric acid solution affects the drop in temperature.  More advanced students are challenged to find the correct mass of sodium bicarbonate to get a target temperature drop.  

Concepts covered

  • chemical reactions / non-reversible changes
  • household chemicals
  • energy changes - endothermic reactions

Skills covered

  • careful handling of chemicals
  • planning scientific enquiries to answer questions
  • recording and processing data (inc graph drawing)
  • using results to make predictions
  • measuring changes in temperature
  • numeracy - subtraction with numbers to 1 decimal place

Prior learning required
Students should have experience of recording data in a table of results and understand how a graph can be drawn and used to make predictions, though it is expected that some will need support drawing the graph accurately. 

Further study ideas

  • Extension: Use a temperature probe attached to a computer to show how the temperature changes over time.  
  • Extension: Investigate exothermic reactions in a similar way
  • Extension: Investigate other common substances, such as a vitamin tablet / alka seltzer tablet / some sherbert mixed with water.

Identification of Unknowns

Audience
Year 10-11
 
Duration
90 minutes

 

Workshop Description
Students will run through a series of practical activities to separate and identify the two components in a mixture. 

 

Concepts covered

  • Chromatography
  • Analytical techniques
  • Solubility of organic/inorganic compounds

Practical Skills covered

  • Filtration
  • TLC
  • Melting point determination
  • Spectroscopy 
  • Flame tests

Prior learning required
There are no specific requirements for this workshop. Familiarity with the concepts covered will ensure students gain the most from their time in the laboratory.


 

Cough Sweet Calibration

Audience
Year 10-11
 
Duration
90 minutes

 

Workshop Description
Students will use UV/Vis to determine how much dye is needed to give cough sweets their colour.
They will first use serial dilution to make a set of standards and use these to plot a calibration curve.
The calibration curve will then be used to determine the amount of dye in a cough sweet.

Concepts covered

  • UV/Vis
  • Beer's Law
  • Calibration curves
  • Working with low concentrations

Practical Skills covered

  • Use of UV/Vis machine
  • Serial dilution
  • Use of volumetric flasks and pipettes
  • Plotting graphs

Prior learning required
Students should be able to draw a graph and represent small numbers in standard form.

 


 

Aluminium Air Battery

Audience
Year 10-11
 
Duration
1 hour

 

Workshop Description
Students make a battery using aluminium foil, sodium hydroxide or sodium chloride solution, and activated carbon.  They then use the battery to power an LED.   

Concepts covered

  • Redox and half equations
  • Identifying anode and cathode 
  • Concentration calculation 
  • Series circuits

Practical Skills covered

  • Careful handling of chemicals
  • Use of volumetric flask 

Prior learning required
Students should know what is meant by oxidation and reduction in terms of electrons, and carry out a simple calculation to make a standard solution.

 

Fragrance Chemistry

Audience
Year 12-13
 
Duration
3 hours
 
Workshop Description
Students will synthesise an ester, purify it, and calculate the yield.  They will also use IR and NMR spectroscopy in a pattern matching exercise.
Pairs will be allocated different starting products and so will collectively produce alternate esters. These fragrances can then be compared between pairs.

 

Concepts covered

  • Production of esters
  • Yield calculations, atom economy calculations
  • NMR and IR spectra

Practical Skills covered

  • Synthesis of an organic liquid
  • Heating under reflux
  • Use of a separatory funnel
  • Use of a drying agent
  • Use of a rotary evaporator
  • Vacuum distillation
     

Prior learning required
Students should be able to identify the equipment required for reflux and distillation.  They will have studied esters and be able to identify how an alcohol and a carboxylic acid react to make an ester.  

Students should have experience interpreting IR spectra. If students have covered analytical chemistry, including NMR, please choose the Combinatorial Esters workshop. 

 


 

Combinatorial Esters

Audience
Year 12-13
 
Duration
3 hours
 
Workshop Description
Students will synthesise an ester purify it, and calculate the yield.  They will also use IR and NMR spectroscopy to identify the starting material and the product.
Different groups will be allocated different starting products and methods (either the Fischer method or using an acid chloride)
Using the yields and spectra of the products they will decide which methodology is preferable.

 

Concepts covered

  • Production of esters using carboxylic acid / acid chloride
  • Yield calculations, atom economy calculations
  • Interpreting NMR and IR spectra

Practical Skills covered

  • Synthesis of an organic liquid
  • Heating under reflux
  • Use of a separatory funnel
  • Use of a drying agent
  • Use of a rotary evaporator
  • Vacuum distillation
     

Prior learning required
Students should be able to identify the equipment required for reflux and distillation.  They must have studied esters and be able to identify how an alcohol and a carboxylic acid react to make an ester.  It is not necessary that they are confident in the production of acid chlorides and their use in making esters, however it would be useful to indicate whether this has been covered when booking the course so that explanations during the workshop can be pitched appropriately. 

Students should have experience interpreting IR and proton NMR spectra.
If they have not yet covered analytical chemistry, please choose the Fragrance Chemistry workshop.