Chemistry is the branch of science which is concerned with materials of every description. It is often called the central science because it overlaps with both Biology and Physics. On the one hand, chemists unravel the chemical reactions that are responsible for life, and on the other, they investigate new materials with exciting and potentially useful properties such as ‘remembering’ their shapes or conducting electricity in one direction only. Chemistry is also concerned with how to change on substance into another. Crude oil can be turned into a whole range of useful diverse products such as nylon, aspirin, paint and petrol. Other transformations include sand into glass and silicon chips and nitrogen from the air into fertilizers and explosives.
We must however be aware of the adverse effect we are having on the environment and investigate ways of reducing pollution, recycling materials and using less energy. What is undeniable is that Chemistry affects the lives of every one of us.
Chemistry is an exciting department at SAIntS. The department is constantly developing its schemes of work and teaching styles to help students succeed. Year 9 is a foundation IGCSE course which introduces students to GCSE level work. Students will be learning some of the IGCSE topics ready for exams in Year 11. There will be plenty of time for practical work which is a major focus of the course.
Topics taught in Year 9 Chemistry include:
States of matter;
Periodic Table and atomic structure;
Acids, alkalis and indicators;
Year 10 and 11
The Year 10 and 11 iGCSE topics include:
The nature of matter;
the periodic table;
structure and bonding;
bases and salts;
In year 12 the AS students visit an ethanol production plant in Chikwawa and visit the Illovo sugar factory. This visit ties in with the organic Chemistry part of the syllabus and allows the students to see some real life Chemistry in action. We take a tour of both factories and chat to Chemists and Chemical Engineers about their jobs and careers. After the tours we take a well-earned rest at the Illovo club where we enjoy a tasty lunch and a swim for the more energetic!
Practical investigations are considered an essential component of the course as a support to concepts taught and in the acquisition of important problem solving skills. The development of safe and efficient practice in the laboratory is paramount.
Students also focus on developing key skills in order to be successful in the subject. These include:
- developing an awareness of the importance of chemicals in industry and in everyday life;
- developing an open-minded approach to problems and their solutions;
- preparing students for the technological world of today;
encouraging students to question why things happen;
- developing an appreciation of scientific methodology;
- stimulating an interest in, and care for the environment;
- developing attitudes such as objectivity, enquiry, initiative, inventiveness and a sense of responsibility;
- encourage an appreciation of the moral and social implications of the applications of science;
- preparing students for their best possible performance in external examinations and for further study at A-level.
Students are assessed in many different ways. These include assessed practicals, IGCSE questions in regular tests and an end of year exam based on IGCSE questions.
Homework is set and marked at least every 2 weeks, often more. It can include practical write-ups, questions from text book, drawing and labelling diagrams, research and revision.
- A standard pencil case with pens, pencils and rulers; bases and salts
- A scientific calculator; metals; industrial processes; bases and salts;
- A love of investigation
- A love of practical work.
Each student is given an IGCSE chemistry text book and provided with other hand-outs and information during the course.
Some careers that make use of the skills and knowledge acquired from the IGCSE chemistry course are:
- Veterinary Medicine;
- Forensic Science;
- Industrial chemistry;
- Chemical Engineering;
- Polymer Science;
- Food Science;
- Lab technician;
- Cosmetic Science;
- Materials science;
Remember that the skills acquired throughout the course are just as useful in non-scientific careers. Analytical and problem solving skills are vital in the following:
- Business management;
- Police detective;
Head of Department:
Mrs J Tredinnick, BEng (Hons) PGCE
Jemma Tredinnick: Jemma has been responsible for the Chemistry Department since she returned to Malawi in 2004. She is an ex-student of the school with fond memories of her time as a boarder. Her degree is in Chemical Engineering from Loughborough University and she has spent 8 years teaching in the UK before she arrived. When not slaving away in the lab Jemma spends her time with her young family, visiting the lake and swimming.
Mphepo Chibwana, Dip. Ed. BEd
Mphepo has a Diploma in Education and a Bachelor of Educations from Chancellor College here in Malawi. He spent 7 years working in Malawi government schools before joining SAInts where he has been since 1998. When not busy with apparatus and chemicals he enjoys playing and watching football and spending time with his family.