Happy 150th, Periodic Table!

The Periodic Table is having a birthday! In March, it will be 150 years since the Russian scientist, Dmitri Mendeleev, took all of the 63 known elements and arranged them into a table. Today the Periodic Table contains over 100 elements and is found in chemistry classes and labs around the world. One of my favorites is this online interactive table, allowing you to click on each element to learn more about it.

The United Nations has designated 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table, complete with commemorative activities. But other people want to celebrate, too, sometimes in creative ways. I was astounded by this macramé periodic table, made of 200,000 tiny knots. Amazing.

Even devoted chemistry teachers are unlikely to suggest students attempt to duplicate that project, but it could be fun to think of other ways to celebrate this anniversary. I’ve seen a periodic table made of cupcakes, one of blocks, and several with helpful illustrations. You might think about challenging students to think about other ways to present information on the table in a way that would help peers remember it. Would cupcakes help? I don’t know.

Another creative option is to think about other sets of information that could be presented in a table. A quick Google search for “creative periodic tables” will get you started. Take a look at the Periodic Table of iPad Apps or (one of my favorites) the Periodic Table of Cats. Some students might enjoy thinking about anything they know a lot about (action figures? Pokemon characters? favorite snacks?) and consider how they might be classified in table form. I’d love to hear what your students invent.

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