Investigating the anti-cancer properties of plants: Introducing STEM Careers


This resource is part of the SAPS Careers in Science collection, a set of resources to support science teachers in integrating STEM careers information with practical activities. This resource is aimed at KS3 / ages 11-14.

In this resource, carry out an investigation into the presence of vitamin C, an antioxidant, in the different parts of different plants. This is put in the context of Dr Jess Chu, a young scientist researching Malaysian rainforest plants to see if they have any antioxidant, anti-cancer or antibacterial properties. Students learn about how a scientist goes about her research, compare their investigations with Jess’s, and discuss the similarities and differences.

We hope that this will encourage young people to link the skills they learn in the classroom with those needed in STEM careers.

This resource includes full teachers’ notes, foundation, higher, extension and plenary activities, a case study, a students’ worksheet and technical notes for the practical.

Vitamin C, an antioxidant, is a reducing agent which reacts with the blue dye DCPIP (short for dichlorophenolindophenol), turning it colourless. This can be used as a test for vitamin C. Vitamin C will dissolve in water, so pieces of plants can be ground up with water to make vitamin C extracts. The quantity of DCPIP that loses its colour when mixed with a plant extract indicates how much vitamin C is present.

Starter activity: Case study and questions
Foundation activity: Testing plants for an antioxidant (vitamin C)
Higher activity: Calculating antioxidant (vitamin C) concentrations
Extension activity: Plants as chemical factories
Plenary activity: The skills used by a researcher

Careers education

Pupils should:

  • have opportunities to appreciate that science has a vital role in career opportunities
  • recognise the importance of understanding the applications of scientific knowledge, understanding and skills outside the classroom.

How science works

Pupils should be taught to:

  • collect data from primary and secondary sources, including using ICT sources and tools
  • work accurately and safely, individually and with others, when collecting first-hand data
  • evaluate methods of collection of data and consider their validity and reliability as evidence

Living organisms and life processes

Pupils will:

understand that cells become specialised to carry out different functions.
find out that variation can be measured in living organisms

Part of...