Basic science: understanding experiments

This practical, hands-on course aims to help you start thinking like a scientist by carrying out experiments at home and making scientific observations.
You will carry out simple experiments to extract the DNA from fruit or vegetables, observe osmosis in action and bake a potato to destruction! You’ll also investigate how different liquids behave when frozen and how much water an everyday food item contains.
What’s it about?

During this course you will carry out a series of hands-on experiments. These experiments are designed to get you to:

  • start thinking in a rigorous and scientific way
  • recognise the influence of experiment design and variables
  • think about how the world around you works.
What will I learn?

 After completing this course you will be able to:

  • start thinking in a rigorous and scientific way
  • recognise the influence of experimental design and variables
  • consider how the world around you works.
What’s involved?

This course is going to assume that you are new to studying science, so don’t worry if you haven’t conducted any experiments before.

The experiments start off simply, but by Week 4 you will be isolating and extracting the DNA of a kiwi fruit! 

To test your knowledge you can try the end-of-week and an end-of-course quizzes.



This free course is intended for anyone with an interest in making scientific observations through experimentation, and does not require any previous experience of studying the subject.

The experiments do involve both hot and cold temperatures so younger learners may need supervision. As per the Conditions of use of Open University websites, to enrol on an OpenLearn course and participate in the forums, you must be aged 16 or over. Adults can use their own OpenLearn account to supervise under-16s on the course, posting comments on their behalf, and assisting with the experiments.

All of the experiments can be carried out with items you would find in a typical kitchen, but the Introduction to Week 1 provides a full equipment list.

Current Start learning

Course Code: BSCI_1
Available: 14 October 2015
Duration: 4 weeks,3 hours
Type: Micro course

Credentialing: Non-formal recognition
Course Credit: Non accredited
Additional Courses:
Credential: Statement of participation

This OpenLearn science course is produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education, the educational arm of The Exilarch's Foundation.


Course image @The Open University 2015

The Open University is proud to make this course freely available under a Creative Commons licence. Unless otherwise stated or third-party materials which are used with permission, so are not subject to the Creative Commons licence, or ours to give away. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements section of the course.