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Online course

Basic Science: Understanding Experiments

Get an introduction to science-based skills through simple, exciting, hands-on physics, chemistry and biology experiments.

Basic Science: Understanding Experiments

Get to grips with science, by carrying out fun experiments at home

On this practical course you will start thinking like a scientist, by carrying out experiments at home.

You will extract the DNA from fruit, observe osmosis in action, see how different liquids behave when frozen, and bake a potato to destruction.

As you carry out these experiments, you will develop scientific skills including observation, record-keeping, data analysis and experiment control.

The course was produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education. You may also enjoy Basic Science: Understanding Numbers.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 secondsJANET 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 secondsUsing 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 secondsHAZEL RYMER: Beginning of their scientific careers.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 secondsJANET 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

When would you like to start?

  • Available now
  • Date to be announced

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?

Hazel Rymer

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

Luke Mander

I am a lecturer in Earth Sciences at The Open University. My research aims to understand the origin, evolution and ecology of tropical rainforests.

Who developed the course?

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission is to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

Supporters

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  • Access to this course for 6 weeks
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes

Upgrade - $64

  • Unlimited access to this course
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes
  • Tests to validate your learning
  • Certificate of Achievement to prove your success when you're eligible