It’s all about chemistry

Fiona Sharkey and her daughters Emma and Samantha have fun learning about chromatography.
Fiona Sharkey and her daughters Emma and Samantha have fun learning about chromatography.

A Motherwell family have been chosen to participate in a series of videos to get children interested in science by The Royal Institution.

The web series ExpeRimental supports and empowers parents and families to do easy and fun science activities at home as often as they would arts and crafts or cooking.

Following on from the success of the first 10 films released in summer 2014 which explored physics, this second series encourages families to get stuck into chemistry.

‘Colour quest: Discover the hidden colours in ink’ sees Fiona Sharkey and her daughters Samantha (8) and Emma (6) explore the beautiful science of chromatography.

In their experiment they reveal the hidden colours inside felt tip pens.

The trio learned that although two inks may look the same, they may be made of different balances of colours.

Fiona said: “I started following the Royal Institution on Facebook last summer when they put up the first series of ten videos.

“I did a couple of the experiments with the girls and their friends and they really enjoyed it and a trip to the Edinburgh Science Festival engaged them further.

“Last September the Royal Institution posted that they were looking for volunteers from Scotland and Wales for a second series of videos and we were up for that.

“After a screen test they were happy to use us and were particularly pleased that both my husband and I are accountants so have no scientific background, beyond a bit of high school, which shows that anyone can do science.

“They suggested we do the chromatography experiment which was great as it wasn’t something either myself or the girls knew anything about and it was all done with materials that we had lying about the house.”

Samantha and Emma both attend Lady well Primary and while are both a few years from choosing their career path Fiona is keen to keep their options open.

She said: “They are still quite young to be looking beyond doing simple experiments in the kitchen at the moment, but I like to keep their minds open that anything could be an option.

“Science is still seen as being a little bit for the boys, but I want them to know that if its what they decide then exploring science further is something that girls can do too.”

Physics teacher and filmmaker Alom Shaha, who helped develop the project, said: “ExpeRimental films encourage viewers to go several steps further than simply carrying out the activity.

“As well as covering basic scientific facts, ExpeRimental focuses on developing scientific skills like observation, prediction and how to conduct a fair test.

“Worksheets help parents to prompt their children to look more closely at what’s happening, to ask questions and to discover the answers for themselves.

“These films are not just about demonstrating cool scientific phenomena and providing an ‘explanation’ but about encouraging children to explore science through play.”

Dr Gail Cardew, director of Science and Education at the Royal Institution, added: “For 200 years our mission has been to encourage people to think more deeply about the wonders and applications of science.

“ExpeRimental embodies this 200 year old mission completely by bringing exciting hands-on science into people’s homes, wherever they may live and set them on a lifelong course of scientific exploration and investigation.”

To view ‘Colour quest’ and all the other videos in both series one and two of ExpeRimental visit the Royal Instituion