Main content

A chemistry adventure

Chemistry with Alfie Atkins takes you on a fascinating adventure through the magical world of molecules, aided by Alfie Atkins’ curiosity about an important subject that can often be hard to understand.

Research shows that children are interested in advanced things such as scientific phenomena, and that preschool age is an ideal time for learning.”.
“It’s to do with understanding the world around them and their role in it. Children are extremely open and interested. They want to understand how the world works,” says university lecturer Annika Åkerblom.
She is convinced that activities like the chemistry project at the Alfie Atkins Cultural Centre are important for children.
“Children find these activities fun and engaging and come away with the idea of chemistry as an exciting and approachable subject. It gives them confidence and makes them feel they can conquer the world by understanding complex concepts such as chemistry at molecular level,” she explains.
“The most important results of our research show that children are very good at grasping these phenomena, especially in situations where they learn through participation, action and reflection.”

“Chemistry requires us to use our imagination since it’s about tiny things that we can’t see. I want to help children with this,” says Per Thorén, chemist and project manager at Chalmers University of Technology.
He created the educational content of Chemistry with Alfie Atkins, a theatre production that gives six- to seven-year-olds an introduction to the subject of chemistry. Chemistry may seem like an advanced concept for such young students, but Per believes in sparking interest in the subject as early as possible.
“I’m convinced that children retain what they’ve learnt and get a positive impression of chemistry as a subject.

The chemistry project is a collaboration between the Alfie Atkins Cultural Centre, Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, and has been funded by the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation since 2018. For the first three years it was funded by the Hasselblad Foundation.

Support for teachers

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg conducted in-depth interviews with children who have participated in Chemistry with Alfie Atkins since the project started in 2015. The aim was to study how children assimilate the information, and the results will soon be published in a report.
“The learning experience is enhanced by the fact that it takes place at the Cultural Centre and that the story is set in Alfie Atkins’ world. This adds to the magic. Many preschool teachers want to continue the chemistry activities after visiting Alfie Atkins’, even though they lack a formal science training. For this reason, we have put together a teachers’ guide that includes easy experiments for carrying out in preschools and classrooms. All this helps to create a more positive picture of chemistry as a subject. The wider aim of the project goes beyond getting more children to enjoy science subjects at school. Helping the general public gain a basic understanding of how molecules work is important to society, Per claims.
“The word ‘chemistry’ is often associated with toxins and pollution. But having knowledge of chemistry helps to understand problems in society. We want to show that chemistry also offers solutions.”