Demo Day returns for British Science Week

Written by: British Science Association | Published:
Hands-on: Students at Liverpool Life Sciences UTC get involved with Demo Day 2015 (Photo: British Science Association)

British Science Week takes place in March, with a key aspect of the celebrations being Demo Day 2016. We look at how schools might get involved

Running from March 11 to 20, British Science Week is a 10-day celebration bringing together schools, professionals and communities across the UK.

The aim is to promote education, entertainment and engagement in all things STEM.

Organised by the British Science Association (BSA), the week is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Events can be organised by anyone. Organisers usually include teachers, community group leaders, researchers, students, professionals and others.

The BSA offers a range of free activity ideas and free support is given for events of all sizes. This month sees the launch of the 2016 activity pack, containing curriculum-linked resources for key stages 2 to 5. This joins a library of resources that can be found on the British Science Week website (see further information for all links).

There are also opportunities for teachers and students to participate in British Science Week programmes, including bat-related citizen science projects, poster competitions, and Demo Day 2016.

Demo Day 2016

To celebrate the art of the science demonstration, the BSA’s annual Demo Day campaign will be taking place on Thursday, March 17, as part of British Science Week.

Demo Day encourages secondary educators to use practical demonstrations to explore new concepts, provoke conversations and excite students. This can be across other subjects as well as the traditional science disciplines. For example, teachers of geography, food technology, music or PE could use live demonstrations to showcase the science of their subjects.

Since its launch two years ago, the Demo Day campaign has run in hundreds of schools across the UK. In 2016, the BSA is hoping to reach more regions, schools and students than ever before and has published an interactive map of participants online.

Ideas for Demo Day

Educators signing up to Demo Day will receive regular updates including demonstration ideas appropriate for all levels of practical experience, ranging from quick form-time ideas to “the nation’s trickiest demos”. All resources will be accompanied by expert guidance.

The Demo Insights pack includes tips from scientists on how to maximise the impact of your demonstration, while Demo: The movie follows science teacher Alom Shaha as he explores the art and theatre of the science demonstration.

If you work with SEND classes or students, there is specific advice to help run Demo Day activities. Furthermore, Dr Sarah Bearchell of Sarah’s Adventures in Science has written a blog post offering 10 tips for conducting a demonstration with special needs children.

The BSA has also developed a range of six demonstration guides, which can be found at the National STEM Centre eLibrary. They look at demonstrations including investigating digestion using visking tubing, how to conduct the perfect pluck dissection, and how to explore air pressure using a drinks can. The films include presentation tips, stories and thoughts from professionals, including presenters, writers, lecturers, magicians and film-makers.

Elsewhere, the Royal Society of Chemistry has more than 600 resources including quizzes, games and tutorials for use in classrooms and beyond.

And with Briton Tim Peake’s space mission catching the imagination this year, the BSA is also pointing Demo Day organisers to space-themed activities. There are a range of demonstration idea videos on the European Space Agency website, which include practical ideas to illustrate the Doppler Effect and the “whoosh bottle” demonstration.

Look out too for the Astro Academy: Principia project demonstration to be released soon. For this, the National Space Academy has designed and built a series of simple demonstrations that Tim Peake will conduct and film on the International Space Station to illustrate fundamental aspects of physics and chemistry – comparing results in micro-gravity with those in classrooms on Earth.

If these resources are not out in time for Demo Day, then the National Space Academy website already includes video demonstrations from other recent missions in space.

Other subjects

Ideas for other subjects might include in PE lessons highlighting the relationship between students’ physiology and performance with the Wellcome Trust’s In The Zone experiments, discovering how our bodies work during activity, movement and rest.

Also, the Royal Society of Chemistry’s chemistry in sport resources provide tools to examine the material science, biochemistry and organic chemistry behind weightlifting, diving, shooting and more.

In geography, there are resources out there to help teachers forecast the weather (Royal Meteorological Society), tackle plate tectonics (Geological Society), and host experiments on ecology, trade, natural resources and more (Royal Geographical Society).

In food technology, the popular microwavable cupcakes experiment is always worth a go, while you can also examine mould, analyse the curing process, and test the effect of emulsifiers on processed cheese with resources from the Institute of Food Technologists.

A case study

Among those running events last year was Fowey River Academy in Cornwall, which hosted daily lunchtime demonstrations for the whole of the week, with each day’s activities being based on the teacher’s preferences and student ideas.

Organiser Laura Davies explained: “We had kitchen chemistry, where we demonstrated how chemistry is used in baking, a crash bang chemistry course with explosions, methane bubbles, and lots of colour, and habitat diversity, where we went around the grounds explaining and investigating the different habitats present.”

For 2016, the science department is planning a roadshow tour of local primary schools, with events aimed at inspiring pupils in years 5 and 6.

Further information

Referenced activities


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