CSI Spark: Creative Science Investigations

October 11, 2017 9:00 am

This week we have turned to our resident physicist and Head of Science, Nic, to learn all about CSI Spark. It might not be quite what you’re thinking – let’s dive in and see exactly what our Year 7s and 8s have been investigating.

What does CSI stand for?

 

Something exciting has been happening in the Science department here at Spark Academy.  Over the past 7 weeks, we have been doing science a little differently for Years 7 & 8.

As many of you may be familiar with, CSI – that is, Crime Scene Investigation – is a long-standing television show that shows us just how important science can be in fighting crime. CSI at Spark, however, stands for Creative Science Investigation. 

 

The Structure of the Earth

 

In our first topic, students investigated how the Earth was formed, how earthquakes affect buildings, and how Earth has changed over time. Volcanic activities and tectonic plates have changed the very make up of the Earth, as well as its atmosphere. Students have modelled their own construction ideas by building structures from sweets and jelly. Their ‘buildings’ were tested to see if they could withstand earthquakes (simple shaking), which allowed our students to discuss the idea of stability and mobility of buildings in earthquake prone zones.

Iceland’s volcanic eruption in 2010 at the Eyjafjallajökull volcano became the focus for two of our lessons. Students gathered information about the eruption, the issues it generated for the people of Iceland and the wider global impact on air travel and tourism. In true ‘Blue Peter’ style we made our very own model volcanoes – and erupted them. Students used a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar (along with colouring for effect). We discussed the premise of a preliminary investigation and the students investigated the quantities of substances to be used (to maximise effect) before erupting their own volcano.

When looking at the atmosphere students tried a simple electrolysis experiment. By passing a small potential difference and current through graphite pencils in a solution, they generated hydrogen and oxygen gas. We then used the gas test to see if the gases collected were indeed the ones we had suggested. Hydrogen gives a squeaky pop when a flame is held to it and oxygen will re-light a glowing splint.

 

What makes CSI different?

 

The students have really taken to the more practical element of their lessons and enjoy asking questions. They are always keen to find out what practical or investigation they may be doing next! Teaching theory hand in hand with practical demonstrations is making our CSI lessons both fun and educational.

 

Giving our students an edge…

 

The emphasis is on learning through the enjoyment of creativity and hands-on activities. The ability to write scientifically about any investigations they carry out is an essential part of the new Science GCSE. However, students will need the practical skills base to be able to write about their investigations successfully.

The UK is struggling to recruit the engineers of the future, and the wholly academic GCSEs may not provide important practical skills. We hope to build vital practical and investigative skills our students will need to give them to have a competitive edge in a highly skilled jobs market. CSI is science for the engineers, scientists and researchers of the future – and it all starts at Spark.