The story on "Elements Around Us" September 05 2014, 0 Comments

After you tell children that matter is made of atoms, and that we call the different kinds of atoms the chemical elements, then the card set from InPrint for Children called “Elements Around Us” is a good next step. This set grew out of an idea I had quite some time before Carolyn Jones Spearman created the present version.

When I helped with science in my children’s classrooms, one of the subjects we studied was the periodic table. After I introduced the idea of chemical elements, . I made a set of cards that had a picture of an object and the major elements in it. I described this material and gave a listing of objects for it in my Big Picture Science Newsletter of fall 1998.

I have been a science consultant for InPrint for Children since about 1995. When Carolyn began work on a series of materials about atoms about 8 years ago, I suggested that we do a set that showed the elements in common objects. Carolyn took the idea and ran with it, in her usual style of top-notch illustrations and design. She photographed objects, and we brainstormed what to include in the set. We embedded several ideas within the set, beyond the composition of materials.

There are two cards that picture objects made of carbon – charcoal and a diamond, which show that chemical elements can take different forms, depending on how the atoms are joined together. There are two that show items whose principle elements are carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen; they are a cotton towel, which are primarily cellulose, and table sugar. These are an introduction to the enormous variety of structures that can be formed from those four elements bond into molecules. We included objects that can be deceiving, such as gold-colored coins that contain no gold. Even gold jewelry is more than just gold, and we showed that as well.

The set includes two copies of the card that show the object and have its name and its principal elements. One set is left whole, and the other is cut into two pieces, one with the picture with its caption and the other with the listing of elements. The children match the elements cards to the pictures and check themselves with the whole cards.

When veteran teacher Diana Butler used the material in her classroom, she pointed out that children needed something beyond matching the elements to their objects. Carolyn then designed a “replicard” for this set. That’s Carolyn’s term for a black line master to be copied for children’s practice materials. The replicards for “Elements Around Us” show an outline drawing of the object, which may be colored, and lines for writing the elements. There are two blanks for children to use to draw their own object and research its elements. The pages can be stapled together to make a booklet for the child to keep.

From there, children might enjoy an element hunt in the classroom, placing element labels on objects that contain them, or researching the major elements in a favorite rock. Elements will be much more real to them.