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Is it terminal for Teflon?

  • GCSE
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Case study
Topic: Polymers

This week, we have a new departure for upd8 - an activity designed as a preliminary activity for coursework such as the Twenty First Century Science Case Study. Please use the Comments box to tell us what you think!

According to a recent scientific report, the chemical PFOA (perflurooctanoic acid), which is used in Teflon manufacture, could increase the risk of allergies. In this activity students examine some of the evidence surrounding PFOA and consider a range of viewpoints. You can run the activity as a 'standalone' or as an introduction to researching the issue in more depth and writing a case study or report for coursework.

14-16 How Science Works:
14 – 16 How science works:
Practical and enquiry skills
2d evaluate [methods of collection of] data and consider their validity and reliability as evidence

Published: 2nd July 2007
Reviews & Comments: 10

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Learning objectives

Students will:
• understand about the scientific controversy surrounding the chemical PFOA
• critically evaluate evidence gathered from a wide variety of sources before presenting their own views about the issue
• be able to critically discuss and present their ideas about a scientific controversy

Try the activity

You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

14 – 16 Chemical and material behaviour
6c new materials are made from natural resources by chemical reactions

Please see downloadable teachers notes for details of individual GCSE specifications.

Running the activity

Display page 1 then quickly introduce the scientific controversy surrounding PFOA and Teflon. Explain that PFOA is used to manufacture non-stick plastics like Teflon and that PFOA can also detected in the environment. You may wish to display items which contain Teflon – or even fry up bacon and eggs in a non-stick frying pan and ask them what the dangers are… (CARE – risk assessment required)!

Get students into groups and display page 2. Ask students to select the opinion they most agree with now, before seeing more evidence. Go through the card sort activity instructions.

Give each group a copy of page 3 and a set of cards made from pages 4 and 5. Get students to read each evidence card carefully before discussing it and deciding which pile to place it in. You may wish to further consolidate understanding by asking questions e.g. What is the controversy about? Where is PFOA used? Where is PFOA found? What is the link between PFOA and Teflon? Which piece of evidence would you trust the most? The least? Which pieces of evidence are likely to be more reliable, more accurate, have more bias? etc.

Finally, give students a copy of page 6 which allows them to state the character from page 2 that they most agree with, along with one piece of evidence to support the point of view, as well as the character they most disagree with.

You could ask some students to feedback their answers to the class or even get students with opposing views together in order to argue their point of view. You may also wish students to consider whether their final viewpoint has changed after completing the activity.

Differentiation – select only a few evidence cards for students to sort.

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

Designer Materials

Mar 26th, 2009

4 Star

I used this with a top set year 10 class and they enjoyed it - it opened up an area for group discussions that was thoroughly enjoyed by my pupils.

Reviewer: Melissa Baines


Mar 10th, 2009

5 Star

Although not exhaustive in addressing the diverse curricula in the UK, UPD8 is a refreshing resource for teachers who want to extend pupils beyond a mundane syllabus or scheme of work. It is practical, trendy and relevant to students. Thus generating for lower ability pupils interesting alternatives to skills they would find it hard tio master in the lab.

Reviewer: andrew timberlake


May 14th, 2008

5 Star

great idea gets the students to realise the impact of hidden chemicals

Reviewer: julie ramsey

Is it terminal for Teflon?

May 13th, 2008

5 Star

Eggs and bacon. What a multi-sensory starter!
Got me a job at a great school. Thanks for the lesson team upd8!

Reviewer: john eyre

Is it terminal for Teflon? review

Nov 5th, 2007

4 Star

Very useful exercise for showing 'How science works' and related to AQA core 'C1b'.

Reviewer: Julian McDonnell


Jul 12th, 2007

5 Star

I found the activity very useful and motivating. I'm even planning to run a similar one with a different topic. THANKS!!!

Reviewer: Elida Raña

Is it terminal for Teflon?

Jul 11th, 2007

4 Star

Tried this activity with a less able year 9 set. They really enjoyed it and raised some really interesting points. They were able to make links with another topic we had been looking at the previous week. Thank you!

Reviewer: Jo Christopher

Is It Terminal For Teflon

Jul 10th, 2007

5 Star

Excellent content and easily adapted for various ability ranges. Appropriate for our needs at KS4 with the Ed Excel 360 coursework. Good activity for provoking debate. Addresses current health issues. A very useful activity.

Reviewer: philip prill

Is Teflon terminal?

Jul 9th, 2007

5 Star

I wish i had this resource earlier in the year! I wil certainly trial it in September, it looks like it will meet the needs of my year 10 studying 21st Century science - Thank You.
Ann Plumpton

Reviewer: ann plumpton

Is it terminal for teflon

Jul 8th, 2007

5 Star

What an excellent activity. It can be used at all levels of abilities, making differentiation automatic.
I like the cards of evidence and facts. This is a great activity for teaching pupils about arguments and debates- can be used even if the topic is not being taught.
Thank you!

Reviewer: Samia El-Ali