Sherburn students ‘search for murderer’ at chemistry festival

Students at the chemistry festival from left are Lucy Ferguson, Brad Johnson, Rachel Marshall and Megan Law. (S)
Students at the chemistry festival from left are Lucy Ferguson, Brad Johnson, Rachel Marshall and Megan Law. (S)

FOUR students have taken part in a chemistry festival which included detecting a murderer!

The year 8 students from Sherburn High School, Lucy Ferguson, Brad Johnson, Megan Law and Rachel Marshall attended the Salter’s Festival of Chemistry held in the University of York’s Chemistry Department.

Seventeen schools from the north of England were welcomed by the session leader Dr. Annie Hodgson, who is Professor of Chemistry at York University. The first task for the students was the ‘Salter’s Challenge’ in the teaching laboratories where the students carried out a forensic test to detect a murderer by testing salts left behind on the body at a murder scene.

During this activity the students were, in no uncertain terms, interrogated on four occasions by judges testing their understanding of the work they were carrying out. One judge commented on the teamwork being displayed: “They’re working really well together. They have said their practical work suggests they have two murderers which cannot be true so they have decided to re-test the suspect results. They’re really thinking carefully about the problem so justice can be done”

Following lunch, and a chance to wander around the pleasant grounds of the university campus, the students participated in another chemistry challenge designed to wake the sleeping teacher after exactly one minute. This task required a high level of problem solving skills to determine the exact composition of a mixture of chemicals that would react to produce sufficient gas in a sealed container to make a very loud bang as the lid flew off at the designated time. Although somewhat frustrating at times they did find a recipe that almost did the job!

They were then treated to a demonstration of ‘Colourful Chemistry’ by Dr. Hodgson in the demonstration theatre before chair of the judges, Chris Otter announced the winning teams and presented the awards. The Sherburn High students were described as “having worked really hard all day and were a lovely team” before being awarded 3rd place in the University Challenge.

Jane Walker, Chemistry Teacher at Sherburn High said: “I heard nothing but positive comments all day. Even on our midday stroll we bumped into a lady recognising the school uniform who stopped to say ‘how smart’, followed by ‘how polite’ when they all said ‘thank you’. Apparently her children had attended Sherburn High many years ago. It was a very successful team and an enjoyable day for all!”