Woodhouse Plus - Chemistry Academy

Dated: 15 March 2022

 Chemistry teacher Helen Meyer and students from the Chemistry Academy
Woodhouse Plus is our extensive and diverse extracurricular programme, offering a wide range of additional courses students can take alongside their A levels.
Chemistry Academy is just one of a group of supercurricular academies we have on offer at Woodhouse.
A level chemistry teacher Helen Meyer explains...
"Chemistry Academy is for students who are already doing A level chemistry and suspect that they’d like to go to university and study chemistry, biochemistry or maybe pharmacy - something STEM related - but definitely not medicine… which is a separate Woodhouse Plus academy for those would-be medics.
What we do in chemistry academy is a series of experiments each week, centred around the course work and the specification that they are already doing in class. We also go on trips...
Chemistry Academy student Nour at the London Metropolitan University superlab
Last December - 21 students from the chemistry academy visited London Metropolitan University where they had the opportunity to carry out an undergraduate chemistry practical in their £30m superlab. This is one of the largest and most advanced teaching labs in Europe. The students isolated the ester trimyristin from nutmeg using extraction and recrystallisation techniques. They benefitted from experiencing the atmosphere of a large, well-equipped university laboratory and gained practical skills using advanced equipment that is beyond the scope of the college. For those wanting to pursue chemistry at university this will be a useful addition to their personal statements.
We have lots of visiting speakers. The University of Sussex are coming in to talk about studying chemistry with medicinal chemistry at Sussex. We also have UCL chemistry department coming in with about £10,000 worth of equipment – an infra-red spectroscopy machine – and students in the academy will get to synthesise ethanoic acid which they can test on the machine. UCL are also running a workshop that will give our students a further opportunity to talk to students already at UCL (one of the favourite university choices for chemists).
Academy students do Chemistry Olympiad practice questions which supports higher level thinking about chemistry, and they can compete in the Olympiad when they reach U6 next year.
We have also been doing some really fun experiments recently like making azo dyes, and we’ve emulated William Perkin, a chemist who became wealthy in the 1850s at just 18 after accidentally inventing mauveine, one of the first synthetic dyes. We’ve done oscillation reactions that go from one colour to another just naturally. We’ve done analysis of iron tablets and aspirin tablets using titration – we did that very early in the course – but the emphasis is on doing something practical every week.
Students have had the opportunity to do a presentation, which is tricky at this age. They went away and found a chemical of interest, something that fascinated them, and they gave presentations in groups of three or four. This is great experience for university where they have to give presentations of their work – they found it a bit nerve racking to start with, but most did well. We feel that chemistry academy is great work experience for anyone who wants to apply to chemistry-based degrees, because of the number of practical experiments they have to deal with and how they have to learn their way around a lab.”
Chemistry student Nour (above left) came to Woodhouse from the Archer Academy
“I joined the Chemistry Academy to further my knowledge and understanding of experiments and develop my chemistry beyond my A levels. I want to do biochemistry at university, hopefully UCL, and will probably do something in pharmacology - like developing drugs and research.
I’ve loved science since before Y7 and love learning new things - specifically chemistry and biology together and how they combine, I find pharmacology so interesting. I also study geography and am interested in how, globally, everything interlinks.
My Woodhouse experience has been really good. Yes, it’s quite independent here - you have to be motivated and disciplined in terms of revision and doing the extra work during your free periods – but there are a lot of opportunities that are very specific to what you want to do, like biochemistry for me.
The trip to the London Met superlab was really cool, especially seeing all the people there that were very specialised and working in such a big space, a really good environment. I remember talking with my friends about how this is what we want to do for the future, it was really eye-opening.”
Fellow academy student Kacper joined Woodhouse from Oasis Academy in Enfield.
“I just really like chemistry, it’s something I’ve always been passionate about and have always enjoyed - I think it’s fun. There were a lot of good options for my Woodhouse Plus choice, but I thought chemistry academy was the best for me. I know I want to study chemistry at uni. I’m not exactly sure what yet, but it will definitely be something chemistry based.
In chemistry academy we get to do a lot of practical experiments and learn a lot of techniques. During A level lessons we learn about reactions, but we don’t always get a chance to test them. Most of the reactions we do in the academy are things that we have covered in class but only in theory, so it’s nice to get actual practice.”

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