Periodically Fascinating

Periodically Fascinating


This unit encourages students to explore the most basic feature of any chemistry classroom: The Periodic Table of Elements. You can find the Table on the walls of classrooms and laboratories, on the inside cover of most chemistry textbooks, on T-shirts, and even on shower curtains, but what does it mean? These texts cover the history of the formation of the Periodic Table in the 19th century by Dmitri Mendeleev, and in doing so, illuminates the scientific process of inquiry. It details what defines one element as distinct from another, teaches students how to read chemical symbols and atomic weights found on the Table, and shows periodic trends such as atomic mass, electronegativity, and atomic radii. These concepts align with the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) 2 for chemistry:

  1. CH.2  The student will investigate and understand that the placement of elements on the periodic table is a function of their atomic structure. The periodic table is a tool used for the investigations of
    1. a)  average atomic mass, mass number, and atomic number;
    2. b)  isotopes, half lives, and radioactive decay;
    3. c)  mass and charge characteristics of subatomic particles;
    4. d)  families or groups;
    5. e)  periods;
    6. f)  trends including atomic radii, electronegativity, shielding effect, and ionization


    7. g)  electron configurations, valence electrons, and oxidation numbers;
    8. h)  chemical and physical properties; and
    9. i)  historical and quantum models.

This text set is designed to supplement a high school general chemistry textbook, most of which tend to be dry and purely informational. Some of these texts are also mainly informational in nature, though many of them approach the topic of periodicity from a literary angle. Students will learn about the scientific process of organizing the Table, and also potential for the future in discovering new elements.

Description of Students

These texts are appropriate for a high school general chemistry class, including 10th to 12th graders. The lowest reading level represented is 8th grade, and the highest reading level is at the introductory college level. Some students may exhibit a high interest level in chemistry, and these students may want to learn more about the process of organizing the Periodic Table. Other students may only have a low-level interest in chemistry, and those students will be encouraged to study chemistry by the dynamic intersection of history, literature, and art that accompanies this study of the Periodic Table. Students who are not strong readers will have the opportunity engage with videos and lower-reading-level texts, and students who are kinesthetic, spatial learners will get to organize the Table for themselves using numerical trends in atomic mass.

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