Last week I got a new table for my classroom.  It was delivered in the post, flat-packed in a tiny little box:

When one of my junior chemistry classes was decimated by the ski trip being away they all wanted to watch a video.  I refused, instead I suggested that we play with cards.

I soon had them laying all the element cards all over the classroom and then sorting them out.  Then we named the groups and began to put them all together on the entire back wall of the classroom.

The quality of the pictures adds a certain beauty to many of the elements and brings them to life.


This does bring the number of periodic tables on my walls to three.  One is the classic standard giant table that has seen many years of classrooms and is a little faded and old.  The other is a sheet of fabric one and a half by two and a half meters that hangs with prints of the elements from this website.  Each print was created by an artist and has part of the story of the elements in them.  My favorites include:

This is Tungsten and it has the element symbol W from an old name for the metal; Wolfram.  If tin minors came across any wolframite while trying to extract tin it caused problems for them to get the tin.  This wolf-metal ate their precious tin.


The urban glow of yellow/orange street lights is due to the use of sodium in the lamps.


Ta is Tantalum.  Tantalus was a greek king who really annoyed the Greek gods by sacrificing his own son.  They punished him to spend eternity in a stream under a fruit tree.  If he tried to drink the water the water would recede below him and if he was hungry and tried to eat the fruit the wind would blow the branches out of reach.  Apparently the isolation and discovery of tantalum was a project that seemed to bring the scientists involved close to getting it but for a while it seemed just out of reach to them.

My interest in the stories of the elements has been given new life with the discovery of two recently published books on the stories behind the elements.

Periodic tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements

The Disappearing Spoon

They are both fantastic and quite readable.  However, I find The Periodic Tales the more enjoyable.  They, along with Napoleon’s Buttons, should be compulsory reading for Chemistry Teachers everywhere.