As well as the IB Practical Skills Workshops, Form 7 Biology pupils settled straight back into their lessons at the start of term with PCR testing; something which has become very well known to everyone due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Set up as a simulated crime scene, pupils were able to use their skills to test a suspect’s DNA from fingerprint evidence. They used state of the art Gilson pipettes to conduct their testing and then ran their samples through the School’s PCR machine.
PCR, which stands for polymerase chain reaction, is a test that detects genetic material from a specific organism. It can be used to test for viruses such as Covid-19 but is also a widely used method for DNA testing in crime scenes. PCR makes thousands of copies of things so in order to carry out a test accurately the pupils had to learn about the dangers of cross-contamination.
A group of Form 7 Biology pupils also enjoyed a field course at Rhyd-y-creuau in North Wales this term. During the trip, they took part in a variety of activities from enticing worms up from the soil with mustard powder, to sampling tree trunk diameter close to an abandoned lead mine.
Pupils also took part in an online version of Biology in Action this term which was streamed live throughout the day. Students listened to talks on subjects such as deep-sea ocean life, the science of ageing and what happens to your body at altitude.
This term also saw the return of the Biology Society (BioSoc) which joined forces with the Chemistry Society (ChemSoc) to provide Form 6 and 7 pupils with talks relating to different aspects of their subjects. The talks covered a variety of topics and gave a look into some of the research the members of staff had taken before joining the school.
An engaging insight into the biology and chemistry in beer was given by Mr Foster, which included the ingredients and process involved in making the beverage. Among several other talks, Mr Chohan told pupils about how he was using his scientific background to make the perfect Neapolitan pizza, whilst Dr Isaac explained her research which included human placentas.
In Chemistry this term, Form 7 IB students have been working very hard on their IA investigations. They’ve had interesting topics this year including exploring the use of turmeric as a pH indicator, testing vitamin C levels in vegetables, combustion of fossil fuels and transition metal catalysis. The students have collected their data and are now finishing the projects off by analysing and evaluating the results achieved.
The Form 6 IB students have recently had an afternoon of practical skills development in Chemistry. This was run as an analytical competition with pupils each preparing a standard solution and then challenging their levels of accuracy to identify an unknown concentration of alkali through titration.
Form 7 Chemists also travelled to Warwick University this term, where they attended a Chemistry in Action Lecture Day.
Seventh Former Tom said: “We all found it very interesting to learn how science and specifically chemistry can be applied to many different areas of life. They also showed us that chemistry is very interdisciplinary and laps across the other two main sciences and even other non-science related subjects. Moreover, they showed us how chemistry has affected the pandemic and how it has helped with the diagnosis and vaccination against COVID using many of the principles we have learnt about in class. We also covered chemistry from a nanoscale, all the way up to explosions and climate change.”
Physics has also had a very successful term with several topics being covered throughout each year group.
Form 7 pupils have not only been working towards the British Physics Olympiad, but four students have also applied for Oxbridge places in Engineering and Physics.
The Physics Society has remained popular this term and is running extra sessions to broaden the knowledge and background for Form 6 pupils, who can benefit from the School’s links to the Rutland Astronomical Society.
During the Physics activities, role-playing sessions have been running twice a week for Form 3 and Form 4 pupils.
Dr John Chilton, Head of Science and Physics at Oakham School, said: “We have had a lot of positivity from our students at such a challenging time this term and this is great to see as it reflects the encouraging attitude of the Teaching and Support Staff at the School.”