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After-school club celebrates 1 year of making science fun at City Academy Norwich

The science club at City Academy Norwich is celebrating 1 year of getting students excited about science.  Highlights at the popular after-school club, which regularly attracts 20-30 pupils each week, have included making balloon-powered hovercraft, kaleidoscopes, edible worms, air- and ethanol-powered rockets, and bouncy balls made from custard.

The science club makes science fun and engaging, giving students a chance to have a go at some hands-on science outside the requirements of the curriculum.  The sessions are open to all students in Years 7 and 8 and are run by different members of staff at the Academy, including Leader of Key Stage 3 Science, Zohra Backtash. 

“It’s about showing students that physics, chemistry and biology are not just confined to their text books.  Science is all around us, even in ice cream!”, says Miss Backtash.  “A lot of the activities we run are based on what students are interested in and we encourage them to watch videos and come up with suggestions of things they would like to do in science club.  That was how the idea for the edible worms came about, made from a seaweed extract, sodium alginate, and a solution of salty water, which was amazing.”

And what about the custard bouncy balls?  “We did some work with slime, to explore non-Newtonian fluids, and that was where the idea to make bouncy custard balls came from.”

Whilst there is a relaxed atmosphere and a strong emphasis on having fun at the science club, there are real benefits for students’ learning too.  Miss Backtash continues:

“We aim to awaken the students’ interest in science.  We find that once they’re interested in what they do in the science club, students often share that with their friends and peers in science lessons, bringing what they’ve learned into the class, which has been phenomenal.”

Other benefits include giving students across the two year groups the chance to mix and get to know one another better, with the older pupils acting as positive role models to the Year 7 students.  The club also helps to get students thinking about further study, and even careers, in science.  Activities have included a visit to UEA to see some of the degree-level opportunities and facilities the City Academy Norwich students could be using as undergraduates in a few years’ time.

Year 8 student Marcus Walker says, “I come to science club so I can learn more things about science and to do something after school.  I like being able to make things.  In science lessons you have to sit down and write things, whereas at science club there’s more opportunities to make things.”

Caitlyn Moore, who is also in Year 8, said: “I’ve been coming to science club since it started.  I come because I like science and it’s quite fun.  I’ve enjoyed all of the activities.  The trip to the UEA was good.”   

Year 8 student Charlie Riches, added: “I come to science club because it’s fun and because I learn science.  I enjoy doing all of the experiments.  One of my favourites was the custard bouncy balls, which we made by mixing borax, PVA glue and custard powder.”