University of Strathclyde



This project allowed primarily S2 students to learn about the soil, and its properties, in their school playground. Students collected samples which were sent to the Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry and analysed by Y4 and Y5 masters students. Throughout the year long project schools were updated with progress through a series of newsletters. They also participated in a poster competition and the winning teams and their teachers were invited to the Grand Environment Day held in the Department in September 2018.


Faculty of Science

Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry

Contact Details

Dr Debbie Willison

Dr Christine Davidson



Student Transitions


The purpose of this project was to provide BGE (Broad General Education) students with an understanding of Scotland’s historical environmental heritage and to encourage students to think about current environmental issues. We strongly believed that this should be a national project, involving pupils from all areas of Scotland, including the Highlands and Islands. To ascertain the popularity of the idea a request for Expression of Interest was sent to every secondary school (397) in Scotland. At the time of submission of the request for funding, 97 schools had responded positively. This included schools from remote areas, the Highlands and Islands and other schools situated within the lower levels of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. The pupils from these schools would not normally have the opportunity take part in such projects and/or be able to travel to a university to interact with employers and other schools. The Royal Society of Chemistry confirmed we had secured an Outreach Grant in August 2017 and with this funding and further contributions from the RSC Analytical Division Scottish Region and RSC West of Scotland Local Section Committees we were able to undertake the project.

The objectives of this project, which we believe have been achieved, were:

  • To stimulate interest in environmental issues at the BGE phase of school learners
  • To provide a platform for schools, teachers and pupils to interact at a national level
  • To provide pupils with the opportunity to explore chemistry within a local context, e.g. their own school
  • To demonstrate career opportunities in the environmental sciences through invited speakers at the Environment Day in September 2018
  • To develop employability skills in pupils such as working as a team, communication skills problem solving and powers of analysis

To provide opportunities which would not normally be accessible to some of the students taking part.


Some of the successful resources created and shared with the school, teachers and students included;

  • A lesson plan explaining the environmental and analytical chemistry involved in the project with associated worksheets, activities and games
  • A protocol and sampling materials for the collection of soil samples
  • Monthly newsletters with updates, quizzes and additional environmental information
  • Final report on research findings distributed to each school
  • A Grand Environment Day where students could learn about the variety of careers available in this area of chemistry.

Some quotes from the schools include:

“The class enjoyed the experiments – something a little different for them. Getting results from uni dept was good too. All round, a good experience.”

“Overall this is a great package to develop data handling skills.”

“They were interested and it gave them an insight into research ideas and the importance of research.”

The Strathclyde students involved in the project helped to develop the lesson plans, activities and games, visited schools to support the students taking part, carried out the analysis of samples, prepared the final scientific reports and participated in the Grand Environment Day. This provided them with the opportunity to not only develop their scientific skills but also their communication skills through verbal and written means.


The Grand Environment Day was organised in September when the students who had participated in the project had moved on to the next year of their studies. It therefore proved difficult for some of them to get time to attend.

Lessons Learnt

For the poster competition we only gave guidance on general content, size and the number of students who should be involved. In retrospect, once we saw the quality of some of the posters we believe students would benefit from some instruction in how to construct a poster.


Of the 397 schools in Scotland, 99 schools expressed an interest in the project and received the monthly newsletter. Of these 99 schools 43 submitted soil samples for analysis. All 99 schools received a copy of the final report on the research findings from the project. Assuming an average class size of approximately 25, then almost 2500 students were involved. There is no reason why all schools in Scotland could not take part. A continuing dialogue has been established with Scottish Schools and a number of schools plan to repeat the project this year.

Suggestions for Transferability

This type of initiative could be used in almost any subject discipline. We plan to seek further funding which would allow us to complete a further project with schools in the area of microplastics.

Preparations are currently underway for the preparation of pedagogical and scientific papers on this work.

Dissemination of this work will take place, initially at the Advance HE STEM Conference in Birmingham in January 2019 but also at the 35th International Conference of the Society for Geochemistry and Health ( which takes place 1-5th July 2019 in Manchester. The theme is Sustainable Geochemistry, and so our project’s emphasis on soil protection and education fits well.


  File Modified
JPEG File Appendix 11 Prize winners.jpg Jan 24, 2019 by Alex Buckley
Microsoft Word Document Summary Report for RSC.docx Jan 24, 2019 by Alex Buckley
PDF File Appendix 1 Lesson Plan.pdf Jan 24, 2019 by Alex Buckley
Microsoft Word Document Appendix 2 Activity.docx Jan 24, 2019 by Alex Buckley
Microsoft Word Document Appendix 3 Game.docx Jan 24, 2019 by Alex Buckley
PDF File Appendix 4 Soil Sampling Protocol.pdf Jan 24, 2019 by Alex Buckley
PDF File Appendix 5 Newsletter 1.pdf Jan 24, 2019 by Alex Buckley
PDF File Appendix 6 Newsletter 3.pdf Jan 24, 2019 by Alex Buckley
PDF File Appendix 7 Newsletter 5.pdf Jan 24, 2019 by Alex Buckley
PDF File Appendix 8 Newsletter 7.pdf Jan 24, 2019 by Alex Buckley
Microsoft Word 97 Document Appendix 9 Template individual schools results letter.doc Jan 24, 2019 by Alex Buckley
PDF File Appendix 10 Final Report.pdf Jan 24, 2019 by Alex Buckley