Fun with the Periodic Table of the Elements

Yup I said FUN! E9 has been doing a unit study on Marie Curie and he’s gotten far enough to learn that she has been isolating some radioactive elements from an ore called pitchblende. She discovers polonium and radium and successfully isolates both.

Of course discussion of elements leads us to the Periodic Table of the Elements. Every chemist’s dream and perhaps every chemistry student’s nightmare!

I’ve done plenty of work with the table myself, but you know it is a fun tool especially if you really understand how it was put together and all the information about an element it can tell you. Just the placement of an element in the table tells you an awful lot about it.

The other day in the van on the way to get groceries we had quite a discussion on which elements are where and which ones are highly reactive and why they are right next to the noble gases (the elements that are super inert or non-reactive). Today E9 spent some time on this very cool site. Web Elements- is a site that allows you to interact with the table and if you click on an element, it gives you tons of facts about it plus a picture and it table information.

In the science reference above there is a wonderful two page layout of the Periodic Table and the quick links led us to web elements. This is definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of chemistry.

When I told Dan about it, he says he uses it at work to find out the resistivity of various elements. Can you believe he kept it a secret?

E9′s Week with Marie Curie

E9 did some really nice experimenting with magnets this week. After doing experiments and reading more about different types of magnets and what is magnetic, he made a fact page about magnets. It was interesting to learn that the chips the kids use with the magnet wands are actually temporary magnets. Ok, who remembers what a temporary/permanent magnet is??

Last week E9 worked diligently to make a meter stick carefully marking off by the decimeter until he reached one meter which would be 10 decimeters. Unfortunately, he found that our recently taken down blind slats are just short of a meter. He was able to improvise and measure all sorts of things in the house in meters. This was also a great way to show that a meter is longer than a yard. We talked a lot about the metric system and he recorded the basic units of metric measurement for many different areas. He measured the amount of liquid he drinks per day in liters.

Scientists use the metric system exclusively even in America. After graduating with a biology degree I sure know that 2.5 cm is one inch and 5ml is a tsp. Funny though…just like a foreign language I still relate it back to units I am more familiar with. Well except I don’t know how many quarts are in a 2L bottle of soda!

It was funny to talk about how when I was in school going metric was a big deal and now I can’t remember the date that the US was going metric! Well America made it as far as the 2 liter bottle and said, “That’s it! No more!”

One assignment was to identify and discuss the Baltic Sea and it’s importance for Eastern European nations. This gave us the chance to realize why ports are crucial to countries for trade and why countries need to trade.

What’s been happening with E9′s study of Marie Curie?

E9 has been a busy student reading about Marie Curie’s early life and studying some geography of the region. He started his notebook pages so we’ll share some here. Our notes on this study will be here and there and we hope to finish by the end of October.

Each week he does several assignments per chapter in addition to his weekly spelling work and his dictation. Usually once a week (sometimes twice) he copies down several paragraphs of the text while I read it to him. He’s getting pretty good at plowing on through. The text is chosen based on the grammar concepts that I’d like to work on with him. When the passage is complete, we go over his writing and misspellings are pointed out. His punctuation, particularly the use of commas, is coming right along. Typically he places them just right based on how the passage is read and if he’s missing one I just need to say, “You know that sentence actually has three commas.” Then he’ll take a look and add missing comma into the correct place. I wasn’t sure about this method of teaching grammar, but I’d have to say it is working very well for E9. We use a book called Learning Grammar through Writing for our scope and sequence. Later in the week, he has to correct any misspelled words and answer questions or make lists, etc. based on the grammar concepts of the week. For example, today he had to correct two misspelled words which in this case lead to a discussion about the word medal vs. metal. That was a hot debate…whether medal even existed though I assured him it did! He identified why the word “and” in one sentence was italicized. He wasted no time in telling me it is for emphasis. We reviewed why there are commas in the long version of writing out dates. The one thing we may need to tweak is his definition of nervous breakdown. His reads, “When a person is having one, they freak out.” I’ll have to check on that!

He’s been working on learning a little about Russian Czars and a lot about lakes. Here are some more notebook pictures. I’m still working on training this new photographer so bear with us!

This page details what a lake is, how they are formed, and how we use them.

Lists of man made vs. natural lakes.

E9 made a book on the world’s largest lakes both fresh and salt water. He made cards for each one telling the name and its location.

These two pictures above describe the science of physics both classic and modern. Marie’s dad was a physicist as was Marie.

Physical map of Poland including some of the regions we could identify based on the descriptions.

What to do about a timeline?

By popular demand (Hi Beth!), I have made a super cool slide show of E9′s timeline from Marie Curie- thus far! We use the FIAR timeline which is a fairly new product offered. Timelines can be made in all kinds of styles. Some people prefer to have wall timelines. They arrange it to sprawl a length of wall and lately I’ve seen a lot of posts showing three strings displaying different millenniums. People like to add their own family members and events and all of these are fun. Some folks go with the notebook format still showing a steady line through tons of pages marking off the millenniums and centuries and placing timeline figures along the way.

This one is different and I like it though it isn’t for everyone. Basically, the timeline consists of a set of templates in landscape or portrait formats. There are places for pictures, explanations, and the year. You can organize it any way you would like. I let E9 choose which pages he would use after I gave him a variety. I think he did reasonably well. Then I had him order up the events within that decade. So far he has chosen to use certain colors for certain years, but that may change as he goes along.

We can choose to display a specific time period on the wall or just leave them in the notebook. When I was remarking that we may not have anything to add to the Andrew Johnson page, E9 said he’d leave it to mark important events from his presidency. Smart kid.

What is the point of a timeline anyway? To me the significance of a timeline is to be able to place people and events from history into a proper context. Time is relative particularly to children who are missing the big picture. My goal is for the kids to put all the events and people they learn through their stories into the correct context within history. If they can do that, then we will have succeeded. Think about how you learned history. For me it was broken up into world vs. US and into different time periods. It hasn’t been until recently that I began putting it all together. You know like what was going on everywhere else when Marie Curie was born.

For example, it would never have occurred to me that Laura Ingalls and Marie Curie were born at the same time. Isn’t that interesting? While Laura was busy on the frontier dealing with native americans and building doors with her dad, Marie was over in Poland wishing she could study freely in Polish and learn Polish history. When Laura was taking her first ride on the railroad, Marie was trying to study physics at the Sorbonne in a language she did not know.

So for us, the FIAR timeline templates work. They are flexible and allow us to be creative in how we approach history. I’m sure we’ll change and refine how we use them. More important than spreading years and years of history before us, waiting to be filled with figures based on our study, is the idea that our kids know where to put the people and events they meet where they fit into the big story of the world.

Marie Curie

Today E8 began his study of Marie Curie for his Beyond FIAR unit study. The book he is focusing on is, Marie Curie and the Discovery of Radium. It isn’t entirely an uplifting look given that she had some pretty hard times, but he is going to love all the science this book introduces.

Today he learned she was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1867. His first activity was to label a map of Poland and before we did so I had him take a look at the atlas and wall map to tell me where it was. He immediately confirmed it was in Europe east of Germany. Sure enough…there it was! I was completely impressed when he drew in the largest river on the map himself and labeled it correctly.

Then he got a chance to begin his timeline notebook. Knowing E8, he will enjoy this a lot. When I asked him what he thought was going on at the time, he immediately told me that Laura Ingalls Wilder was born that year and the Civil War had not been over long. Then he chose to use Wikipedia to find out what else was happening. Here is a short list for inquiring minds!


*Marie Curie the physicist and chemist was born.
*Laura Ingalls Wilder was born.
*Michael Faraday died (ok he is another physicist with a constant bearing his name. That is mostly interesting to me and possibly Dan.)
*Alaska was purchased by the US.
*The Suez Canal was opened and with a small amount of prompting he correctly identified which two bodies of water it joined (Mediterranean and Red Seas).
*West Virginia University was founded (he’s football minded you see)
*The Roebling suspension bridge opened between Cincinnati, OH and Covington, KY and was the longest suspension bridge in the world.

On deck for tomorrow is to discover some things about tuberculosis and malachite…stay tuned!