Monday, December 2, 2013

Periodic Table

I learned a long time ago not to plan too rigidly and to allow for the possibility of spontaneous wonder.  When our SoundWaters science program ended we decided to stick with the theme of science Mondays.  Our friend joins us for the day and we spend the morning working on Discovery Works Oceanography and the afternoon doing something out of Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study.  

preparing slide of Long Island Sound water sample
comparing pH of Long Island Sound water sample...

with pH level of tap water.

The first investigation, or experiment, involved testing water samples from Long Island Sound to determine how ocean water differs from tap water.  They tested the pH levels of each, the salinity of each, evaporated water samples, and examined the salt crystals under a microscope, and wrote a formal lab report.  

It was during the salinity test that the definition of parts per thousand (PPT) was discussed.  We used a online site from San Jose State University Geology 105 class - General Oceanography, to help us understand this concept. This definition reiterated what our book showed graphically as the 

Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany;
SVG version by Stefan Majewsky

mineral make up of sea water.  It is hard to understand this without understanding the Periodic Table of Elements.  Any introduction to the elements has to begin with Dr. Sheldon Cooper singing the element song:

which led to They Might Be Giants video of Meet the Elements:

which led to a spontaneous “extra credit” assignment.  Not too long ago I realized that students in school are motivated to go above and beyond the class syllabus with extra credit but homeschooled children don’t have or necessarily need the same motivators.  Lilah would scoff at an "A".  To her it would be just an arbitrary letter.  Occasionally I toss out extra credit projects for things like Razzle gum (Lilah’s favorite) or an ice cream cone (what they wanted for this project).  The task:  create the periodic table of elements, color coded by classification of element, and then list each element by name.  

The girls dug into this project.  I expected it to be an over the course of the week project, not a sit-here-until-it-is-done project.  Two hours later, they each completed a beautiful Periodic Table of Elements.  We had a fabulous discussion about how some elements stand on their own, like silver and iron, and others are combined to make things like salt (NaCl) or water (H2O). 

I wish the elements were introduced to me this way.  I struggled my way through high school chemistry.  However, this made sense.  They got it.  Already my brain is spinning with what to do with this new information because it is just too cool to leave this new understanding tucked away in a science binder.  I think we need to take this Periodic Table of Elements out into the world......I foresee another “field trip” in our near future!


dstb said...

Very nice. I sometimes wish I had a crafty guy at home, but that's not what seems to suit him.

We did a bit of chemistry last year and I wanted to mention a couple of sources we used. We listened to the Elements song, but the original Tom Lehrer version. We also had fun watching the Periodic Table of Videos from the University of Nottingham. Very informative, but often pretty funny as they show the property of some of the elements they are using.

I had my son start off with a periodic table lap book from Homeschoolshare to learn the different families of elements. We also used 2 of Theo Gray's fabulous element books. Check out his website and see lots of pictures of the elements and his very cool wooden periodic table.

Finally, we used the American Chemical Society's free Middle School Chemistry curriculum available online. Really nicely laid out.

Beautiful work on those periodic tables!


Jessica said...


Thank you so much for these fabulous recommendations. I just ordered both books, the Theo Gray book as well as the book required to complete the lap book. It looks like we will be taking a side trip while studying Oceanography!


dstb said...

I hope you enjoy the books! I think that understanding the periodic table and how it is set up will help when they get to more advanced chemistry. If you ever find anything that does a good job explaining energy levels or electron configurations (spdf) , please let me know. That always stumped me. I have a hard time getting my mind around stuff I can't see.


Karen said...

These turned out great!!! Keilee and I watched both the videos you linked. We had seen Big Bang before. :) Great job girls. Have you seen this site? We love it. And I agree, Theo Gray's collection is too cool!

Dusty/333 said...

I'm here in the comment section:). Not finding the lapbooks? I am on my phone though, wonder if that matters?

Dusty/333 said...

I'm here but not seeing the lapbooks?

dstb said...


The homeschool share periodic table lapbook is at (or google homeschoolshare periodic table lapbook).
It requires the book Fizz, Bubble, & Flash.


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