Saturday, February 27, 2010

Introducing Children to the Periodic Table of Elements

We've been doing a lot of kitchen chemistry lately, and I thought it was time to ground things a bit, with a review of (and introduction to, for the younger children) the periodic table of elements. We have the level 1 and 2 Chemistry books from Real Science-4-Kids. It's an excellent series, and both books provide a very nice explanation of the table, geared to children. And, the level two book even comes with a pull out poster to hang on the wall, just like in a real chemistry classroom.

But we notched up the fun today, with Simon Basher and Adrian Dingle's The Periodic Table, Elements With Style. It's a quirky little reference book, that gives real personality to the elements, both through the oddly intriguing illustrations, and the offbeat narrative. Each of the more common elements is allowed to tell it's own story, describing for the reader, the sort of element it is.
Each chapter begins with a description of one group of the table. For instance, Chapter One - The Alkali Metals, starts out:
"A rowdy bunch of rebels, these elements have a reputation for extremely reactive behavior."
While, within the chapter each element tells it's story. Like lithium, who says, among other things,
"I am generally a useful and very helpful character. You can find me acting as the positive half of many batteries, and as part of high-performance, industrial lubricants."
Most of the dialogue will go over young children's heads, but it is a nice way to introduce the concept of the elements, with the hows and whys of their groupings on the table.
I also found a very fun activity idea at Not So Humble Pie - the periodic table of cookies!

And, it's not as insane as it sounds. Really, if the cookies are made small, about 1 inch, by 1 and 1/2 inches, it only takes one batch of sugar cookie dough.

I had the children do the base frosting, and used it as a chance to discuss how Mendeleev divided up the elements.

The only draw back to small cookies, is there isn't room to pipe on the atomic weight, or number. I tried to fit the numbers on to begin with, but it became clear, pretty quickly, it wasn't going to work. So, we'll have to settle for the symbols.

Now, as we eat our snack tonight, we can flip through Basher and Dingle's book, and discuss the elements the children are eating. And, when a few elements have been removed, and eaten, we can look at how the Mendeleev's table, was helpful for identifying the missing elements.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Unknown said...

You've done it again- who WOULDN'T want to learn the Periodic table when it can leave you with a sugar high?

Ticia said...

So, how old are yours that you're introducing this to?

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

They all listened to the story - ages 3 - 12. For the 3 year old, it was just funny pictures, and cookies. The 5 and 7 year old, picked up some very basic concepts, and for the 9, 10 and 12 year olds, it was a full on lesson.

Wendy said...

W-O-W! Anything goes down better with a spoonful of sugar! This a great idea...may have to borrow this soon.

Just Jenn said...

Brilliant! My husband would LOVE to do this with the kids (after the baking is done) he he! but since I think they are too young for that kind of science (ha ha - lazy mom) I might have to nick the idea and make a scrabble game out of it instead! Edible scrabble!!?? I have some baking to do! ;)
Just Jenn!

Kez said...

Wow, I think those cookies fall into the absolutely brilliant but certifiably insane category :) Well done!

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

Wow, I would never think of eating arsenium, for example :) Well, maybe if it were a cookie, then it would have been different. You are a really amazing unschooler.

Choxbox said...

Hopped over from Playing By The Book. Am totally loving your ideas! WOW!

We LOVE Dingle's books. We have multiple copies of all the five books they've brought out and they have been read and read about a million times by my daughter since she was 7. What a book!

And I am floored by your cookies idea!

Abeka Books said...

Wow! I was looking for some help to make the Periodic Table come alive for my son who is in high school taking Chemistry, and I found your post. As a mom who loved the Konos Curriculum when my children were younger, I can really appreciate your efforts in teaching with cookies. How cool is that! My children would have loved it...and you get to eat your handiwork. FUN!