“We ourselves were made of the very same elements as composed the sun and stars, that some of my atoms might once have been in a distant star. But it frightened me too, made me feel that my atoms were only on loan and might fly apart at any time, fly away like the fine talcum powder I saw in the bathroom.”
So writes Oliver Sacks in Uncle Tungsten, the book in which he describes his early fascination with Chemistry.
Chemistry fascinates students, partly because they are, as Sacks explains, made up of the same atoms as everything else. However, it is how the atoms combine that gives each material its own unique properties and forms much of the basis of Chemistry. It is also this combination of atoms that leads to the diversity of materials and enables us to make chemicals for a particular purpose.
Chemistry is a practical subject and demands that students develop the skills to perform experiments competently and safely. We train teachers who understand the power of practical work to inspire students and to help them make sense of the world around them. And yet, because so much of what happens is a result of interactions that occur at an atomic level, we need teachers to find ways of explaining these concepts so that students have an appreciation of the particulate nature of matter. Excellent chemistry teachers will help students to build models to support their understanding; they will also encourage them to evaluate these models and their limitations.
Chemistry links with other sciences and trainees will work in departments and across age ranges to experience Biology and Physics, as well as specialising in Chemistry. Many of the skills required apply to all disciplines; the need to work safely, to be organised, to be well-prepared and professional. As a Science teacher, it is also important to model good scientific practice such as the asking of questions, the formulation of activities to answer the questions and the manipulation of the data generated in response.
Our aim is to train Chemistry teachers who are passionate about their subject and their students, and who understand their responsibility to ensure that students have a safe and stimulating experience.