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Chemistry goes digital

by Anna Gunnarsson

Chemistry with children is easy with a green dragon by your side. But how can it be done when it´s not possible for all children to come to the lab? When some are too far away to be able to make the journey or forbidden to come due to a pandemic…? Green In the lab was created to overcome such obstacles.

The concept cook-along has been used in many ways before, but not so often when it comes to chemistry. In Green in the Lab, two children, a green dragon, and a teacher join forces to spread fun chemistry to our youngest chemists, aged 4-8. It is all accessible on Youtube ( and can be used in any corner of the world. The activity is aimed at both children and teachers and will support all the fun that can happen in chemistry for a young audience. In this article we will share the structure of a lesson, how this project was born in NAVET, the Science Center of the Boras Region in Sweden, and how we have faced the limits created by the Pandemic beginning in 2020.

Before the experiment session can begin, the teacher of the children has access to online videos and other practical resources that contain all the information needed for preparations: for example what liquids, powders, containers and such will be needed for the experiment. The video also contains tips and tricks directed to the teacher, in order to prepare them well for the experiment session coming up. Teachers can also book an online preparation session with Navet if they want to make sure that everything is prepared properly in order to succeed.

For the youngest, it is crucial that the chemistry experiments are on the right level. The children must quickly be fascinated and invited so that they feel the urge to do it themselves. Strong colors that change, bubbling liquids, and clarity over all are success factors. For small children, it is not effectivefor an adult to say: «If you look really closely, you might see a small bubble»; everything must be visible to a young eye. With Berta the Dragon in Green in the lab, the children get to experience a varied exploration of the unexpected. The chemistry is challenging but not difficult – and doing chemistry with a green dragon includes laughter and engagement, even when it is done online. Many children remember the activities long after the experience itself and continue to use the language used; words such as fart-juice (red cabbage juice) and carbon dioxide have become understandable AND fun.

The experimental material is carefully selected so that it fits small and eager hands and is easy to find when the local teacher has to  gather the equipment for the chemistry cook-along. The children appreciate using materials specifically associated with chemistry, such as pipettes and test tubes if they are at hand when preparing, but these are not a prerequisite for the activities. It is more important that everything fits a small hand that can, after only a few attempts, succeed in  doing the experiments.

SUCCEEDING IN CHEMISTRY at a young age gives a sense of competence in natural sciences that can follow the children later in life.

This has to be made possible using digital resources too. If we do not succeed in this we will not give children equal opportunities to experience science, particularly if they have limited opportunities to visit a science center or similar facility for science activities.  Studies conducted by researchers at King’s College in London in the field of science capital show that if young people are given the opportunity to understand and experience science throughout their lives in many different ways, the likelihood that they will retain an interest after the age of 16 increases. This also makes it more likely that they will choose the area for their profession as well. And we need more people who know better chemistry (and Science) all over the world!

WHEN CHILDREN EXPERIMENT with others of the same age, they explore together.

«How did you do that?» is a common question for the friend who sits close by and has just succeeded in making it bubble or change color. When participating in Green in the lab activities, children are encouraged, in a cook-along manner, to take an active part in everything. Berta likes to remind children and teachers of chemistry expressions and concepts during the experiments, for example «how much gas have you got in your bag?» and «did you see how that air-filled soap bubble can float on carbon dioxide?». Talking out loud about the concepts of chemistry in Green in the Lab will eventually make children pick up the meaning of the words, while the pronunciation is rarely a problem. Four-year-olds who can easily pronounce the names of different dinosaurs and all the characters of Pokémon will have no problems with chemistry vocabulary!

ENTHUSIASTIC AND KNOWLEDGEABLE TEACHERS might be the most important factor when wanting to succeed in chemistry for the youngest.

Activities must take place in a safe way, with materials that are easy to find, are well-known and easy to use. This is even more important when teachers are encouraged to take part in a preparatory activity carried out online, as they might not have the experience of making changes to materials on their own. When we are aiming to create activities that show that it is possible to do fun and joyful chemistry in a simple way – this must also be true for the teachers. If it is not – then there is a huge risk that they will never take part again and might even influence the children negatively. Research shows that competence development in the field of chemistry is necessary for educators to feel confident in leading chemistry activities. This can either be carried out digitally or in person, but has to be done in a professional way – in a confident teacher to teacher manner.

Since chemistry made its way into both the Swedish curriculum for pre-school and the first years of primary school, many teachers have asked themselves how exactly chemistry curricula should be designed and carried out. Many of the pre-school teachers and primary school teachers never learned chemistry when studying, and they often find it complicated and difficult even to get started. Support is needed, and to use digital resources for that support does open up possibilities for many more than those able to come to a science center. Digital chemistry-support works from anywhere in the world!

CHILDREN TODAY should have the opportunity to do chemistry in both preschool and school. We should always start early and simply and then gradually increase the degree of difficulty and level of abstraction. When this is done in an equal way for all children, with or without using digital resources, we lay the foundation for the possibility that more people will choose chemistry as a profession and that more citizens have a basic understanding of the chemistry that exists around them. But how do we get there? Green in the lab for the youngest is a small piece of the puzzle in this big challenge. Hopefully the possibilities of using a mix of real world and online/digital learning will give more and more opportunities to our young and their teachers to explore science together in a playful way. Participating in Green in the lab activities may be a part of that journey.

To find out about the many initiatives implemented by Navet, we invite you to visit our portal at To learn more about the Green in the lab project, we refer you to the Berta’s YouTube channel.



1 | 2023 October-December

Welcome! by Riccardo Villari
Makers and scientists by Alfonso Molina and Mirta Michilli
Green in the Lab by Anna Gunnarsson
Città della Scienza by Luigi Amodio and Alessandra Drioli
Science communication in the digital age by Dario De Notaris and Rosanna Marino
An overview by Giuseppe D’Angelo