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  • The Open University

Basic Science: Understanding Experiments

This hands-on course introduces you to science-based skills through simple and exciting physics, chemistry and biology experiments

35,233 enrolled on this course

  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

This practical, hands-on course aims to help you start thinking like a scientist by carrying out experiments at home and making scientific observations.

You will carry out simple experiments to extract the DNA from fruit or vegetables, observe osmosis in action and bake a potato to destruction! You’ll also investigate how different liquids behave when frozen and how much water an everyday food item contains.

As you carry out these experiments you will develop important science-based skills including observation, record-keeping, data analysis and how to control an experiment. After examining your results, you will share them with other learners and discuss your findings.

You may also be interested in joining Basic Science: Understanding Numbers.

All Open University science courses presented on FutureLearn are produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds JANET SUMNER: Through hands-on practical science, this course will give you insights into how to conduct scientific experiments and how to use the data gathered to understand the natural world.

Skip to 0 minutes and 42 seconds Using tools already available to you, you’ll start by asking the question, how much water is there in a potato? And to do that, you’ll begin your first experiment to gather data– 74 grams– and get introduced to some essential skills needed to do science practical work. By the end of the course, you’ll have developed the skills needed to study science further, including careful observation, systematic note taking, interpreting your data, and great experimental design. What we’re asking the learners to do now in keeping a study journal could be the start of something big going forward into the future.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 seconds HAZEL RYMER: Beginning of their scientific careers.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 seconds JANET SUMNER: And that is DNA, the blueprint of life. These will all give you an idea of how scientists understand the world around us.

What topics will you cover?

  • Evaporation during heating, quantified by weight
  • Relationship between density and state of matter by freezing fluids
  • Living organisms and the requirements for life
  • Extraction of DNA from fruit

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Demonstrate and carry out a basis scientific experiment
  • Investigate and test any hypothesis using experimental techniques
  • Record and analyse results from your experiments
  • Discuss and share ideas with fellow students online

Who is the course for?

This course is intended for anyone with an interest in making scientific observations through experimentation, and does not require any previous experience of studying the subject.

The experiments do involve both hot and cold temperatures so younger learners may need supervision. As per FutureLearn’s terms and conditions - if you are under 13, you must ask an adult to create an account using their own name and communicate in discussions on your behalf.

All of the experiments can be carried out with items you would find in a typical kitchen, but before you start, you should probably make sure you have the following:

Shopping list

  • a cucumber
  • a kiwi
  • methylated spirits (or a bottle of vodka!)
  • olive oil
  • a potato
  • salt
  • sugar
  • washing-up liquid
  • yeast
  • distilled water

Equipment list

  • cling film
  • oven gloves
  • a freezer
  • an ice cube tray
  • kitchen scales
  • a marker pen
  • a microwave or oven
  • a paper clip
  • a printer
  • a ruler
  • a vegetable peeler
  • drinking glasses
  • knife

Who will you learn with?

Citizen Scientist interested in all things new in science and technology. My research involves making measurements on active volcanoes.

Who developed the course?

The Open University

As the UK’s largest university, The Open University (OU) supports thousands of students to achieve their goals and ambitions via supported distance learning, helping to fit learning around professional and personal life commitments.

  • Established

    1969
  • Location

    Milton Keynes, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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