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Biology and chemistry activities for KS3 pupils to support transition

STEMNET has developed six biology and chemistry-related activities for STEM Ambassadors and teachers to use with KS3 pupils which include:

  • mixing substances with oil and water
  • developing super-strength glue
  • investigating the effect of heat and pH on foods
  • investigating the effect of salt concentration on blood cells
  • investigating the decline of conker trees.

The practical activities enhance the biology curriculum, and can be run by STEM Ambassadors and teachers to give students the opportunity to relate school science to the real-world challenges experienced by STEM professionals. More information about the project can be found here.


Why use this approach?

Working with the Society of Biology, teachers and STEM professionals identified topics which were not presently covered by existing resources and which could link across the science curriculum throughout the UK. The resources are aimed at Key Stage 3 level to support the transition from primary Key Stage 2 to secondary school.

The activities enrich and enhance the biology curriculum, engaging students in science when they are at an age when interest in STEM subjects is known to drop off significantly.

What are the “Activities for STEM Ambassadors”?

Six different activities were developed. Focusing on life sciences, these hands-on activities could be a key part of engaging students in STEM subjects, as they increase students’ involvement in a topic and boost their understanding.

The activities have been designed to run over an hour’s session, with the STEM Ambassador providing valuable real-world experience and input. Activities also lend themselves to follow-up investigations, should the teacher and/or the STEM Ambassador wish to take the topic into future lessons.

The STEM Ambassador Biology Resources

Each resource offers an introduction to the theme and gives guidance on how to present the activity. The necessary equipment is listed (all of which should be commonly available in schools), health and safety addressed and a structure described for delivering the activity with pupils. Links are suggested to complementary resources and guidance offered on how the activity fits within the curriculum, with follow-up options for the teacher.

The resources have been designed to be easily downloaded by both STEM Ambassadors and teachers, with a section for completion by the pupil.


The six biology activities that STEMNET has developed for STEM Ambassadors and teachers to use can be downloaded here.

The practical activities enhance the Biology curriculum, and can be run by STEM Ambassadors and teachers to give students the opportunity to relate school science to the real-world challenges experienced by STEM professionals.

Activity 1: Colour Questions

What happens when coloured substances are mixed with oil and water?

Students observe what happens when water or fat soluble pigments are added to water, oil or both. They mix a water soluble ink or food dye with water and add oil. They then mix grated carrot with water before adding oil. The students record their observations, attempt explanations and suggest possible useful applications of the phenomena observed.


Colour Questions [1.14MB]


Activity 2: Improving Glue

Can we develop a stronger glue?

Students make glues using milk. They make glue following a given procedure and then alter the method to see if they can make stronger glue. Different milks and bases are provided, though some students may decide to make the glue acidic or basic or add less water when making the glue. The students can also try out a method for testing the strength of the glues.


Improving Glue [1.19MB]


Activity 3: Eat Your Greens

Can we stop food from going off but still keep it tasty and nutritious?

Students observe what happens to the colour and texture of green beans when they are heated in different pH conditions. The students record their observations, use the data they have obtained to suggest which conditions are best for canning and attempt some explanation of what has happened.


Eat Your Greens [1.03MB]


Activity 4: Exploding Cells

Why can’t the concentration of our body fluids change?

Students observe what happens to blood added to salt solutions of different concentrations. This is done in test tubes, although it may also be possible to observe what happens under a microscope.

The students record their observations and attempt to explain what has happened to the red blood cells. They then answer some questions on the implications of what they have observed.


Exploding Cells [1.10MB]


Activity 5: Take Your Medicine

Why are there so many different kinds of pills?

Students investigate the rate of dissolution of different tablets in water and dilute hydrochloric acid (stomach strength, pH 2). They record and interpret their observations by answering questions.


Take Your Medicine [1.12MB]


Activity 6: Save Our Conkers

What’s happening to our conker trees? Will they survive?

Students investigate the organisms found in horse chestnut leaves infected by leaf miner moths. The students record their observations before being given identification guidance and further background information to consider.


Save Our Conkers [1.05MB]


Safety Notice and Disclaimer

PSTT advises teachers to refer to either the CLEAPSS website or SSERC website for up to date health and safety information when planning practical activities for children.

PSTT is not liable for the actions or activities of any reader or anyone else who uses the information in these resource pages or the associated classroom materials. PSTT assumes no liability with regard to injuries or damage to property that may occur as a result of using the information contained in these resources. PSTT recommends that a full risk assessment is carried out before undertaking in the classroom any of the practical investigations contained in the resources.

All materials are ©Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) and are freely available to download and share for educational purposes. Whilst educators are free to adapt the resources to suit their own needs, acknowledgement of copyright on all original materials must be included. Rights to images included in the resource have been purchased for PSTT use only – as such, these images may only be used as part of this resource and may not copied into or used in other materials.



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