Rock Cycle - Chemistry (K)
Post Lab 

  • Observing the periodic table of elements.
  • Exploring elements.
  • chemistry
  • element
  • matter
  • periodic table

Students discover elements using the periodic table of the elements.

Helium filled balloons


The fear of chemistry experienced by many young adults usually stems from lack of exposure to the table early in their education. This exercise introduces the periodic table, the basic organizational chart of the elements, and begins developing a new vocabulary that centers around the elements. An element is a substance that cannot be broken down into simpler materials by normal chemical methods. Every day, students hear words like calcium, lead, iron, magnesium, carbon, and oxygen in advertisements. These words are used to sell a product; the aim is not to educate but to make people believe that because of this "magic" ingredient they should buy the product. However, if the students can realize that these are not magic ingredients, but naturally occurring ingredients, they would be better equipped to evaluate the advertiser's claims.

For instance, many commercials insist that "calcium makes your bones grow stronger." Children (and adults) get the idea that you can buy calcium in its pure elemental form. However, in its pure state calcium is a highly reactive whitish metal. The "calcium" as purchased from stores actually occurs in combination with other elements (a compound).

  1. Pass out the Periodic Table Placemats. As the students look at the periodic table, begin to discuss what is on the table. State that this table has all the ingredients of every substance that they see in the world. These ingredients are called elements. Even the ingredients that make up the human body are included in this table.

    You may want to have the students find the elements that make up the human body. These include carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O) along with others.

  2. Notice that the Periodic Table Placemat indicates the different states of matter of each of the elements. This refers to the natural state of the element. For instance oxygen is a gas; mercury is a liquid; and silicon is a solid.
  3. Chemists are people who study these ingredients, and they don't like to write the full names of the elements. They have thus developed a short way to write the names of the "ingredients" or elements. Go over a few of these shortcuts. Nickel is Ni; copper is Cu and oxygen is O. You may want to state the element and the short cut and see if the student can find the letters. You may be able to do this exercise several times, as you will discover that young children love this "short cut."
  4. For an additional activity, have the students find all the elements that begin with certain letters of the alphabet. For example, have them find all the elements that begin with the letter "A". The goal of this activity is to allow children the opportunity to become acquainted with the periodic table, not memorize it. As the students mature they will be familiar with the table and will not shy away from it later years.

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