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As If By Magic science demonstrations

A unique practical science demonstration lecture for primary (Years 1-6) and secondary (Years 7-13) school students, delivered by Dr Andrew Szydlo, a highly experienced Chemistry teacher.


The aims are to kindle an enthusiasm for Science, demonstrate scientific concepts pupils learn about in the classroom, and encourage pupils to pursue Science to the next level.

The identified need was a lack of provision for science learning outside the curriculum in both primary and secondary schools. Teachers in our partner schools have reflected that they often do not have the time, resources, and experience to deliver demonstrations like those in the show.

In addition, the school lockdowns caused by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbated this lack of provision. During this time, the As If By Magic roadshows were adapted into a virtual format. The more inspirational experiences pupils are exposed to, the more likely they are to engage with STEM at the next level.

There are a number of critical factors for success. Firstly, a teacher with the expertise and experience to devise the demonstrations is required. As of the 2019/2020 academic year, the member of staff that delivers the talks has a 0.6 FTE allocation to partnership work. In order to achieve the same impact, any member of staff that continues the project will require the same protected time in their timetable. An additional member of staff manages the lecture schedule, assists with transporting the materials, setting up the equipment, and can assist with the demonstrations. Finally, equipment and chemicals are needed for the science demonstrations, which are provided by the Highgate School Chemistry Department.

The immediate beneficiaries are the pupils at our partner schools. Teachers and technicians from the schools also benefit as the demonstration covers a large amount of content from the Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 4 science curriculum. Additionally, the talk brings a new source of inspiration to continue to increase the practical Science provision in their schools. By continuing this provision in a virtual format, we were able to reach schools outside of the Highgate Chrysalis partnership.


Having started teaching at Highgate in 1972, Dr Andrew Szydlo began delivering extra-curricular talks to Highgate pupils in the following decade. As the School began to engage further with our community, Dr Szydlo began to extend this work to local schools. For over twenty years, Dr Szydlo delivered talks alongside his normal teaching timetable. At the end of the 2014/2015 academic year, Dr Szydlo retired from normal teaching and his sole focus has been on partnership work with Highgate Chrysalis schools on a 0.6 FTE basis.


There are three critical resources. Firstly, Dr Szydlo, who has the expertise and willingness to devise and regularly deliver the demonstration, is required. Secondly, a member of staff (a Chrysalis Fellow – recent school or university leaver) is needed to help with transporting the materials, setting up the equipment, and assisting with the demonstration. Finally, chemicals and equipment are needed for the science demonstration, which are prepared by the Highgate Science Department lab technicians.

Highgate School facilities are needed to prepare the equipment before the demonstration and clean it afterwards. This was also the case for the virtual roadshows, conducted at Highgate School in Chemistry lab rooms. As demonstrations take place in partner schools, some equipment is also needed from partner schools, such as tables, buckets and other materials required for cleaning. Due to the volume of equipment and materials required, parking must be available at the location of the demonstration.

When the talks originally began, the member of staff was a member of teaching staff that delivered talks during time allocated to partnership. As the talks evolved and became more popular, there is a member of staff focused only on this partnership project, supported by a member of support staff. Talks take place throughout the academic year. The demonstrator and additional supporting member of staff, which can be any of Highgate’s full-time Community team, are required for each.

The demonstrator and the supporting members of staff work full-time on community and partnership, so the school takes on additional salary commitments to ensure this work can take place. Additionally, the project required additional apparatus and chemicals to be purchased and remunerates the cost of travelling to venues by car.


We ask all schools where Dr Szydlo has given his talk ‘As If By Magic’ to complete a feedback form so that we can evaluate how successful the demonstration is in achieving its goals. As previously mentioned, two types of roadshows occurred in the 2020/2021 school year due to COVID-19, in-person roadshows and virtual roadshows (during school lockdowns).


Virtual roadshow feedback:

73% of contacted schools completed the virtual roadshow feedback form which included four partner schools and four non-partner schools. Out of all the schools that responded:

•             100% agreed or strongly agreed that the demonstrated added benefit beyond the school science provision

•             100% agreed or strongly agreed that the video content was pitched at the right level for the audience

•             100% were very satisfied with the quality of the virtual resource

•             100% strongly agreed that the demonstration sparked an enthusiasm for science


In-person roadshows:


In addition, 80% of contacted schools completed the in-person roadshow feedback form. Out of all the schools that responded:


•             88% strongly agreed that the demonstration sparked an enthusiasm for science

•             88% agreed or strongly agreed that the children learned something new


Furthermore, feedback is sought from staff/teachers after each roadshow.

Pupil Involvement

Pupils from school partners and non-partner schools attend the roadshows, hosted at their school. Ages range from 3 to 18.


This activity is on-going, occurs on multiple dates during each academic year, dependent on bookings received. We will continue to run this project in the foreseeable future.