20-minute challenges

Our 20-minute challenges have been developed by staff and postgraduate students at The University of Manchester to introduce young people to a range of subjects areas in a fun and engaging way.

They can be used in your classroom as part of a lesson, in after-school clubs, or as extension activities.

Most activities require minimal equipment; some can even be completed at home. Most activities are designed to last 20 minutes, but they can be extended; where this is the case, you will find suggestions in the accompanying notes.

Each activity also includes guidance on the most appropriate age group and the optimum number of participating students.

If you try any of our activities, we would love to know what you think. Please send any feedback to schoolsandcolleges@manchester.ac.uk with the subject title ‘Activity Resources Feedback’.

Cell Border Force (Key subjects: Biology)

This activity is aimed at Key Stage 3. It introduces pupils to the role of cell membranes and familiarises them with the vocabulary relevant to this topic.


This activity introduces the concept of cryptography – or code-making – to Key Stage 3 learners, and incorporates numeracy and literacy skills with themes from history and politics.

Cooperate or Die (Key subjects: Biology and Physics)

This activity is for Key Stage 3 learners and considers the concept of cooperation within evolution.

Feed the World (Key subjects: Geography)

Aimed at Key Stage 3 pupils, this workshop is designed to illustrate the way geographers think about global issues.

Radioactivity in our Environment (Key subjects: Physics)

Aimed at Key Stage 3 and 4 pupils, this activity introduces the concept if radioactivity in the environment.

Spinning Top Challenge (Key subjects: Physics)

This activity introduces learners to angular momentum and the gyroscopic effect. It is aimed at Key Stage 3 students.

Download the Spinning Top Challenge activity sheet (PDF document, 126KB)