A Lesson with The Disappearing Spoon

Grade Level: 9-12th Grade Chemistry/AP Chemistry  dirGGoAi9

Big Idea: Students are to explore the concept of periodicity and the modern table while learning the historical background behind the development of the periodic table and discovery of the elements. They will use pattern recognition and inquiry skills to discover periodic trends. They will additionally discover that models in science are tentative to change when new evidence is discovered. This reading will follow an inquiry lab called The Path to the Periodic Table where students constructed the periodic table as Mendeleev did. The purpose of using this text and the various activities to follow is to scaffold students understanding of how to use the periodic table and learn about the elements that will appear in every future chemistry unit. After this lesson students will begin learning about parts of an atom, compounds, and chemical reactions in which the text provides an appropriate introduction.

Reading Summary: The first chapter of this book highlights the periodic table from its most simple shape and begins to explain its construction piece by piece. The author chooses to proclaim this history in an easy to flow narrative that highlights key groups of the periodic table, the definition of an element, and how the arrangement came to be about. The book in general contains more information about the periodic table and the tales of how the elements came to be discovered. The use of Story Toolz displays this text as a grade level appropriate for grades 11-14. It is a nice tool to be used in AP chemistry courses or to challenge a general high school chemistry course. The text may be inaccessible for some students who may lack the prior knowledge or reading level. However, it reads as a narrative story that provides captivating language and intriguing word choices. Front loading or prior knowledge and focusing activities will be needed with this text. This text can be utilized in the classroom as an added piece to understanding and connecting with the foundation of chemistry. It provides upbeat text with interesting stories of the discovering of elements. The author also relates chemical terms and discoveries to real-life student experiences. With examples of something the students can connect with, they are more likely to be interested in the reading and want to know more about how the periodic table and chemistry applies to their everyday lives. It also provides students with a more personal connection to the history of chemistry.



Kean, S. (2010). Geography is Destiny. The disappearing spoon: and other true tales of madness, love, and the history of the world from the periodic table of the elements (). New York: Little, Brown and Co..             


Focusing Questions: What are the groups in the periodic table and how are the elements in them connected? How does this chapter correlate with Mendeelev’s creation of the periodic table? What can you conclude are the function of electron shells?


Introduce Focusing Questions Stated Above

KWL Chart

  • Students write what they know about the periodic table and the discovery/history of elements
  • Students then write down what they are interested in learning in the reading or what questions they would like answered. These will serve as guiding questions for the reading.

After completion of these two components the teacher facilitates a discussion and generate a class KWL chart on the overhead as a compilation of student ideas. The teacher can then fill in gaps and students can write down additional questions they are interested in investigating. Convey the L segment of what the students learned will be saved for after the reading.

Media Text- Video Nova Excerpt from “Hunting the Elements” on PBS

  • Students will view this short clip to reinforce the lab they just completed and concepts of the periodic table. (The whole video can be shown at the teacher’s discretion).
  • Clip Available from PBS for Free Download: http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/asset/nvhe_vid_periodic/
  • During the video students answer the questions on the NOVA “Hunting the Elements” Video Worksheet. The questions can then be discussed in class after the video in a think-pair-share format or as a large group.


Frayer Model

  • As the students are reading have them complete a Frayer Model with key concept words that appear throughout the chapter (Number of words completed is at discretion of teacher). They can be words they have previously been introduced to or new terms to be discussed when the word wall is created as a class.
  • Some Word Choices Can Include: Element, Metals, Noble Gases, Electrons, Outer Layer/Shell, Halogens, Alkali Metals, Protons, Etc.


  • Students should be seeking answers to their questions from the “What I Want to Know” column of their KWL chart.


Word Wall Creation

  • Generate a list of words the students used for Frayer on the board (ex. Elements, noble gases, electrons, octet, bonding). Facilitate a discussion with the students on the topics to establish definitions, understanding, and address misconceptions of the words. Lecture notes can be given at this time.
  • Have students write down one of the words on a note card and decorate it with markers with a picture depicting the definition. Display the words on the wall for the rest of the unit or even course since they establish the primary pieces of scaffolding for the entire study of chemistry.

KWL Completion

  • After completion of the word wall, the discussion of the text and course content should continue by completing the KWL chart. Students should be given about 10 minutes to compile their thoughts and write what they learned.
  • Facilitated discussion occurs and the class chart is completed as well. Important things to highlight are answering the questions in the W column as well as the focusing questions for the reading. Students then turn in their own charts for assessment points.

Infographic Visualization Activity

  • Students will be assigned to design an infographic on an element or periodic family of their choice using the software Piktochat. Provide students with the rubric for completion.
  • Demonstrate the Piktochart program and provide students with examples of infographics and explicit instructions. Answer any questions that may arise.
  • Have students sign up for a particular periodic table group or a specific element to make an infographic about. The infographic should pertain to the history of the element or group and describe any important characteristics or properties.

Some Resources for Students:

  1. The Disappearing Spoon Chapter 1
  2. Interactive Periodic Table- Click Here for Access!
  3. Textbook

Note: Infographics should be presented to the class (in digital form) and printed (via student or teacher) and displayed throughout the room or on a bulletin board for future reference.

Worksheets: Click Name of Activity Above To Access Link!!!


Daniels, H., Zemelman, S., & Steineke, N. (2007). Content-area writing: every teacher’s guide. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Davidson, Rosemary. (2014). Using infographics in the science classroom. The Science Teacher, pp. 35-39.

Greenleaf, Cynthia, Moje, Elizabeth, & Pearson, P. David. (2010). Literacy and science: each in the service of the other. Science, 328, pp. 459-463.

Hibbing, Anne Nielsen, & Rankin-Eriksin, Joan L. (2003). A picture is worth a thousand words: using visual images to improve comprehension for middle school readers. The Reading Teacher, 56(8), pp. 758-770.

Lattimer, H. (2010). Reading for learning: using discipline-based texts to build content knowledge. Urbana, Ill.: National Council of Teachers of English.

Mojie, Elizabeth. (2008). Foregrounding the disciplines in secondary literacy teaching and learning: A Call for Change. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(2), pp. 96-107.

Snow, Catherine. (2010). Academic language and the challenge of reading for learning about science. Science, 328, pp. 450-452.


Disciplinary Text Set- The History of the Periodic Table of Elements

1. Timeline of Element Discovery Infographic

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 3.17.33 PMClick on Above Image to See the Entire Timeline or to Download Your Own PDF Copy

Description: The infographic is entitled Timeline of the Elements. Through visualization the infographic depicts all the elements in the periodic table and the date of their discovery in a timeline format. The elements are color coded according to their group on the periodic table. Next to the elemental symbol is a circle with the flag of the country of origin the element was discovered along with the specific year.

Text Complexity: I would rate this text a 2 on a scale of 5. It is very considerate in terms of color-coding and serves as a nice visual aid to support comprehension. However, some students could have difficulties when interpreting the image if they are not familiar with a countries flags or the groups that elements are divided into, or the symbol of each element. Some frontloading would be required with this image. The image provides nice section breaks and is very straightforward. This text would be accessible to students because there are no lengthy sentences. The infographic provides accessible content knowledge to students.

Why Use This Text: It highlights the aspects of the nature of science by showing people from many different countries contributed to the discovery of the elements and science in general. This text could be used as an introduction to the periodic table or as a follow up to learning about the elements and the properties of the periodic table. Visual texts are a quick effective way to grasp students’ attention on a subject and really highlight key points without a lengthy article.

Things to Consider: When utilizing this infographic, students should be asked to discuss or consider the following topics:

  • Note the timeline of discovery of certain groups of the periodic table. How does the discovery of the noble gases compare to that of the alkali metals?
    • Follow up: Why do you think the less reactive alkali metals were discovered prior to the reactive ones?
  • Discussion on the nature of science and global contributions from scientists and the current discovery of new elements, which indicates the tentativeness of science.
    • Ask students how they would fit a new element into the periodic table.


Timeline of the Elements: Dates & Countries of Discovery. (2014, January 26). Compound Interest. Retrieved July 21, 2014, from http://www.compoundchem.com/2014/01/26/timeline-of-the-elements-dates-countries-of-discovery/

2. Introductory Chemistry Textbook Excerpt- History of Discovering Elements


Description: This is an introduction excerpt from Chapter 4 Chemical Foundations: Elements, Atoms and Ions from the textbook Introductory Chemistry, A Foundation. This chapter introduction highlights the importance of chemicals and elements in our everyday lives. It then goes on to discuss how the process of discovering elements came about through history starting as early as 1000 B.C. when chemical applications were beginning. The definition of an element is explained and is still used today.

Text Complexity: The textbook currently stands to be one utilized in a high school chemistry introductory course. According to Story Toolz, the text complexity level is that appropriate for grade levels 9-12. The text provides a photo of the major scientist they discuss as well as a picture of the element lithium discussed. It is an appropriate narrative grasping attention at the beginning with a connection and hook that pulls students into the reading. The text is accessible students with appropriate sentence length and word count for their grade level.

Why Use This Text: I am not one to have the textbook serve as the main route of instruction. However, I believe this excerpt does a nice job connecting the history of elements and provides background information that students may normally choose to skim over. By highlighting this text, students can gain insight into the evolution of chemistry and realize the process of discovering elements has been occurring since 400 BC and still exists in the field of chemistry today. It highlights the tentativeness of the nature of science and proves that definitions and classifications evolve with new scientific evidence. Highlighting this aspect of the nature of science early on can provide students with better scientific literacy to increase content comprehension later with more complex, or indefinite material.

Things to Consider: This text can be an introduction to teaching names and properties of elements. During and after the reading students can be asked to think and discuss the nature of science aspects present across history in discovering individual elements. This text can be paired with the infographic timeline discussed next in this blog as well to reinforce the timeframe that elements were discovered on.

Some Questions to Ask:

  • What kind of evidence would you need to support a new definition of a concept as such as an element or a known explanation for a chemical reaction?
  • Can a known word have more than one definition? How can you determine the difference? Provide some examples where this occurs in science and everyday conversation?


Zumdahl, S., & Decoste, D. (2008). Chemical Foundations: Elements, Atoms, and Ions. Introductory Chemistry (). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

3. The Disappearing Spoon- Chapter 1 Geography is Destiny

index    IMG_2114

Description: The first chapter of this book highlights the periodic table from its most simple shape and begins to explain its construction piece by piece. The author chooses to proclaim this history in an easy to flow narrative that highlights key groups of the periodic table, the definition of an element, and how the arrangement came to be about. The book in general contains more information about the periodic table and the tales of how the elements came to be discovered.

Text Complexity: The use of Story Toolz displays this text as a grade level appropriate for grades 11-14. It is a nice tool to be used in AP chemistry courses or to challenge a general high school chemistry course. The text may be inaccessible for some students who may lack the prior knowledge or reading level. However, it reads as a narrative story that provides captivating language and intriguing word choices. Front loading or prior knowledge and focusing activities will be needed with this text.

Why Use This Text: This text can be utilized in the classroom as an added piece to understanding and connecting with the foundation of chemistry. It provides upbeat text with interesting stories of the discovering of elements. The author also relates chemical terms and discoveries to real-life student experiences. One example is in determining what it means to be an element. He relates the process of cooling mercury with liquid helium to that of cooling an iPod and discovering that the battery remained fully charged and you could infinitely play music without recharging as long as the helium remained cool. With examples of something the students can connect with, they are more likely to be interested in the reading and want to know more about how the periodic table and chemistry applies to their everyday lives. It also provides students with a more personal connection to the history of chemistry.

Things to Consider: Based on students reading levels and needs, a teacher can decide if this should be a text for after content introduction to provide reinforcement or as an introduction into outlining the periodic table. Personally, I would use this text towards the end of the unit to solidify student knowledge. I think it can provide them with “fun facts” about their study and highlight any topics they may need more clarification on. While reading the text, I would encourage students to underline terms and vocabulary words they may not be familiar with. I would then want them to research the definitions and explain the concept or meaning to a partner. If time does not permit, the terms can serve as an admit slip with definitions or an exit slips with content to be discussed in class the next day. Additionally, the whole chapter can be assigned or just a section as the teacher sees fit.


Kean, S. (2010). Geography is Destiny. The disappearing spoon: and other true tales of madness, love, and the history of the world from the periodic table of the elements (). New York: Little, Brown and Co..

4. Interactive Periodic Table

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 Screenshots of Element Pages. Click Any Image to Explore the Entire Table!

Description: The link above provides access to an interactive periodic table. When the user clicks on an element, a new page opens to describe the history of the elements discovery right below an image of the element. To the left of the new screen a user can discover various properties and characteristics of that particular element.

Text Complexity: Using an online text-complexity scorer, Story Toolz, I was able to generate a reading grade level of 9-12 for this text. Clicking on various elements and inserting their history description into the tool to generate a score produced the range of grade levels. The elements that scored on a higher-grade level were due to some having greater sentence and word length. The information pages also provide a lot of excess information with language that may not have been introduced yet in a chemistry classroom. The titles and headings provide nice guidance for a student that may be inquiring more about the element than just its history of discovery.

Why Use This Text: This text can allow for students to explore the periodic table in an interactive setting other than a poster on the wall or information from a textbook. It provides unique stories that can be pulled out and read before doing a laboratory experiment with the specific element of interest. It again, humanizes the science by explaining how it was discovered and why it exists today. A short excerpt can even be used to introduce a WTL activity about the element or specific properties of the group it is in.

Things to Consider: Students will need some guidance with this website to remove the intimidating factor associated with information overload. Students can each pull an element from a bag at random when entering the classroom. Assuming access to technology is available, students should then be asked to explore their element and read the history of it from the table. Students can then complete a POMS (points of major significance) from their reading to be shared with a partner or the class at large. A discussion can then be had about the different methods scientists use in their research to make discoveries.


Chemicool Periodic Table. 7/21/2014 <http://www.chemicool.com/>.

5. Article- The Periodic Table of Elements

Can Be Accessed for Free Download From:

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Description: Chemists now know that the configuration of electrons around an atom’s nucleus determines each element’s set of chemical properties. Yet, Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev had no knowledge of atomic structure or the existence of many of the elements recognized today. This 1 page essay describes the observations and foresight that led Mendeleev to develop the modern periodic table of elements.

Text Complexity: Utilizing Story Toolz, I was able to determine the text complexity of this essay to be that appropriate for 10-12th grade. The longest sentence is 30 words, and the average number of sentences per paragraph is 10. The text lacks photos or visualizations, but displaying an image of Mendeleev’s original table in class serves as a potential visual support if needed. Not much prior knowledge is needed on the periodic table for this text.

Why Use this Text: This text can be used as a hook or introduction into a lab activity on discovering the periodic table and realizing the trends and properties of the table and its elements. It is a shorter essay that will allow students a brief introduction into the history of the discovery of the periodic table.

Things to Consider: In this essay, Mendeleev’s name is spelled differently than commonly seen in textbooks. This is due to the translation and can be edited to be appropriate for the classroom setting or a time to explain the translation of names and pronunciations between countries and languages. More importantly, there are many things to be discussed with a class from the article.

Some questions to be discussed:

  • How are the elements organized in the periodic table?
  • What are some of the properties of the elements by which they can be organized?
  • How was Mendeleev’s periodic table different from those of other chemists of the time?

Citation: WGBH Educational Foundation

Periodic Table of the Elements essay | Science | Classroom Resources | PBS Learning Media. (2004, January 1). Periodic Table of the Elements essay | Science | Classroom Resources | PBS Learning Media. Retrieved July 21, 2014, from http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.matter.ptabledoc/periodic-table-of-the-elements-essay/

6. Periodic Table Video

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 3.40.04 PMClick Image to Access Download for Video

Description: This is a video excerpt from NOVA’s “Hunting the Elements,” on PBS. In the short segment New York Times technology columnist David Pogue explores how the periodic table of elements took shape. He discusses Dmitri Mendeleev and his process for organizing the table by families with similar properties and by relative weights. It additionally highlights how the table is constructed to predict properties of elements that were not known at the time of its creation. An extended 2-hour video of “Hunting the Elements” is available and can be utilized for many purposes. I chose only to highlight a portion with this clip.

Text Complexity: According to the PBS NOVA website, the video clip is appropriate from high school students in grades 9-12. I support this statement based on my assessment tools of text complexity. It is a considerate video with new concepts being introduced one at a time. It provides visual aids and highlighting of elemental descriptions, vocabulary words, and even pictures of Mendeleev and his original table he created. The video uses a familiar tone and has a narrative approach to make comprehension easier. I believe it is an accessible text through the use of visuals, audio, and the option for captions.

Why Use This Text: This video provides a nice introduction and visual tool for students to understand the history of the periodic table. They can relate the concepts stated to the actual table with the features they are discussing being highlighted. It also provides a more detailed historical context to relate the periodic table to. Mendeleev’s original table is shown and his scientific thought process is explained. Students can now visually see the table as a comprehensive tool that evolves throughout history instead of just a resource for atomic weight and other information needed for problem solving. Additionally, signing up for a free PBS account will allow you download and keep the video files on your on computer or stored on your account. This is a great resource for future science lesson and text needs!

Things to Consider: Some front loading may be required for terms such as families and other periodic properties described in the video.

Some Discussion Questions:

  • Why do you think this display of the elements is called the “periodic table?”
  • How was Mendeleev able to predict the existence of unknown elements?
  • How has the periodic table changed since Mendeleev’s time?

Citation: WBGH Educational Foundation

Pogue, D. (n.d.). NOVA “Hunting the Elements”. Developing the Periodic Table. Retrieved July 21, 2014, from http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/asset/nvhe_vid_periodic/


How Can These Texts Be Used Together!?!?!?!?

The text set I have compiled revolves around the aspect of the history of the periodic table and elements. The texts can be used in tandem to develop a unit on the periodic table. This unit can highlight properties and characteristics of elements, periodic trends, history, and the nature of science. Due to the nature of print text and media text, all types of student learning styles will be addressed. The students will be presented similar yet new information from multifaceted outlets. As a result, reader tasks can be increased to develop more purpose and greater concept comprehension. Many of these texts can accompany a laboratory activity where students mimic Mendeleev’s investigations and explore the table and ways to arrange it on their own. Texts 1-3 about the elements serve as a starting point to front-load students with information about the elements. Texts 3-6 can be used after the lab to reinforce the concepts they learned through their inquiry activity. The possibilities are endless to combine these texts into a classroom unit. The most important thing to remember is to assess your classroom and the abilities of your students. Know their preconceptions and misconceptions, so as a teacher you can tailor these texts and accompanying activities to fit the needs of your specific classroom!!

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Visualizing Media via Interactive Timeline

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 Click Image Above to Access My Interactive Timeline!!

Visualization in science serves to be one of the most useful tools to get students to learn through different engagement in the content knowledge. Some options to enhance learning through visualization include things like infographics, interactive timelines, screen casts and digital storytelling. With an ever-growing technological age, the importance for a teacher to learn these techniques and incorporate them into his or her classroom will allow them to stay at the forefront of education. These tools can be shared with students to allow them to look at a project already made or even better allow them to create their own and really cement in the concepts they are learning.

The topic I choose to investigate for my visualization project was chemists who made large contributions to determining molecular synthesis, bonding, and structures. This topic was of interest to me because chemistry functions around the formation and breaking of elements into different molecules. These molecules undergo chemical interactions that allow the physical world to function. I know why compounds form from previous chemistry courses, but now I wanted to humanize this knowledge and see who made these revolutionary chemical discoveries.

When thinking about creating a visualization for the history of chemistry, I initially was captivated by the uniqueness and creativity involved in an infographic. I stumbled through the different websites and had difficulty with the templates provided or lack of image banks provided. I eventually landed on the infographic website Piktochart. This one seemed to have nice usable templates and the option to upload your own images. As I began designing my infographic I discovered, due to the nature of the material I choose to include, my project was turning into a pictured timeline. It was chaotic to follow and would not provide an outsider looking at it with a clear picture of the knowledge.

During that reflection, I realized that an interactive timeline was the best tool to convey different chemical researchers at specific points throughout history. I choose Capzles as the platform to create my timeline because it provided the option to have a free-floating timeline with just images. This eliminated the traditional 2D timeline with an actual line and dates popping up that are so often depicted in textbooks. This was important to me because it truly made the timeline more interactive and visually appealing to a learner.

Through the creation of this visualization project, I gained a much deeper understanding of the content knowledge I was using. In order to create the timeline, I needed to sift through historical information on each of these chemists and pick out their most important achievements. Through this, I was able to learn more than just what is showed on the timeline through this investigative research. It was a personal decision on what information or text to include in my timeline. A task such as this can provide insight to a teacher about what a student may seem as important and potential things you may need to emphasize later in class because they were missed. Additionally, I was able to connect discoveries and chemists with specific pictures that I felt best depicted their findings to someone who may not be familiar with chemistry. I will not highlight the information I discovered here so I encourage my readers to click the image above and explore my timeline to learn more about the chemists that made crucial discoveries in the field of molecular synthesis, bonding and structure.

In future visualization adventures, I plan on exploring more into the world of infographics and visual storytelling. Infographics can be used in my chemistry classroom to convey properties of a specific element or the theory of conservation of mass. I plan to learn how I can use visual storytelling to have my students create a stoichiometry problem to solve or to predict the outcome of a chemical reaction. The possibilities are endless for the utilization of visualization in the classroom. Incorporating tools such as these will provide students with the motivation to investigate and explore a topic all on their own. Visualization projects can also provide them with a new, unique outlet for studying and completing practice problems in a mode other than a worksheet.


Sources and Sources for Chemistry Examples to Use in the Classroom for later Dates:

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 11.00.09 AM              http://www.compoundchem.com/infographics/

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Where I Am, And Where I Want To Go

sticker,375x360.u5 Here is what I know:

As I stand today, I currently do not know much about the history of chemistry. I can tell you that Mendeleev created the periodic table. We can talk about gases and I can state the laws of important men such as Boyle, Charles, and Gay- Lussac. I know one of the most notable names would be that of Avogardro and his oh so important number of  6.02×1023. I know what all these numbers, equations, and tools mean, but stating them and understanding a concept is very different than the underlying investigations to discover them. I know these concepts are important to the basis of chemistry, and students should learn about them in the classroom. I know as a teacher it should be my job to communicate not only the concept but the history in the process of discovery and scientific inquiry as well. I know students benefit from learning the history of these concepts in order to enhance their understanding of the nature of science.


What I want to know is the history of chemistry! Some Examples are :              index

  1. Discovering elements and creating the periodic table. I also want to know how elements are still being discovered today.
  2. Avogadro and how he discovered the concept of the mole
  3. The inquiry process to the development of the gas laws
  4. Discovering types of reactions
  5. Developing rules for acid and base chemistry

From the list above, the following questions serve as the most important:

  • Which discoveries do I deem the most important to highlight the history of in my class?
  • How did these scientists come about discovering these foundations of chemistry and what makes them so important?
  • How can I successfully incorporate history into my classroom without making it boring or useless information my students may not care to retain after they leave my class?!?!

My hope in all my inquires is to discover ways to teach my students the history of chemistry in order to enhance or reinforce their understanding of the concept. I realize that the history of chemistry is large and occurred over a large time period. As I begin this initial research the topics above may or may not be what I focus in on. I want to discover what aspects are the most interesting and will be the most engaging for my students. I want to discover labs that mimic the way chemists discovered their laws, themes, and ideas. I want to use these labs as introductions to the concept in class and have my students discover these ideas all on their own. Learning through exploration and hands on experience can really enhance a students ability to challenge misconceptions and build the structures they need to understand chemistry.

 Some Potential Resources to Guide the Way

This Day in Science History:   http://chemistry.about.com/od/thisdayinsciencehistory/

The link above provides links to each day throughout the year. It contains brief texts for each day of multiple scientific things that occurred. This information could be used in the classroom as an opening sponge activity for the students to read and reflect on the implications of what happened on this day. It can be used to even develop a potential writing to learn (WTL) activity!

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements By Sam Kean 


” The Periodic Table is a crowning scientific achievement, but it’s also a treasure trove of adventure, betrayal, and obsession. These fascinating tales follow every element on the table as they play out their parts in human history, and in the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them. THE DISAPPEARING SPOON masterfully fuses science with the classic lore of invention, investigation, and discovery–from the Big Bang through the end of time.” ~Amazon.com  Book Summary

I think this book will be a great tool for students to learn more about the elements they encounter daily in chemistry. I am eager to read it and explore how these discoveries were made!

 Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History By Penny Le Couteur

Napoleon’s Buttons is the fascinating account of seventeen groups of molecules that have greatly influenced the course of history. These molecules provided the impetus for early exploration, and made possible the voyages of discovery that ensued. The molecules resulted in grand feats of engineering and spurred advances in medicine and law; they determined what we now eat, drink, and wear. A change as small as the position of an atom can lead to enormous alterations in the properties of a substance-which, in turn, can result in great historical shifts.” ~Amazon.com Book Summary

I think this book goes along with the previous, but can help bring the relevancy of the impact of the history of chemistry into the classroom. I am eager to explore its contents.

Creations of Fire: Chemistry’s Lively History from Alchemy to the Atomic Age By: Cathy Cobb

“In this fascinating history, Cathy Cobb and Harold Goldwhite celebrate not only chemistry’s theories and breakthroughs but also the provocative times and personalities that shaped this amazing science and brought it to life. Throughout the book, the reader will meet the hedonists and swindlers, monks and heretics, and men and women laboring in garages and over kitchen sinks who expanded our understanding of the elements and discovered such new substances as plastic, rubber, and aspirin. Creations of Fire expands our vision of the meaning of chemistry and reveals the oddballs and academics who have helped shape our world.” ~Book Summary

I would use this book for my own knowledge to read up and inform myself on the history of chemistry

Chemical Heritage Foundation: http://www.chemheritage.org/discover/online-resources/chemistry-in-history/activities/index.aspx

This website has some great links to lesson plans that involve the history of chemistry. It is exactly what I am looking to learn to do in my classroom. Further exploration around the website also provides more information on the history of chemistry.


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About This Blog




Passion. Passion, is what drives me in every aspect of my life. Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a teacher. I often played “school” and would design bulletin boards in our house thinking I was the most creative kid on the block. However, as I grew older my interests changed and I became passionate about the inquiry of science. My family and past experiences encouraged me to apply my science knowledge to the medical field or partake in scientific research. Listening to this influence, I determined I could make a huge impact in the lives of others as a pharmacist. It took about a month into my graduate studies before I discovered pharmacy was not where my passion was rooted. I loved the academics and the chemistry behind it, but I was not personally satisfied with the career as a whole. I realized my vision had been clouded by high expectations and fear of disappointment. However, deep down I always knew my passion was to teach. This desire was there when I was small and kept shining throughout my entire life as I took on leadership roles and jobs as a tutor. I had just never paused to notice it before. All it took was some deep soul searching and removing the blinders to realize I could combine both my passions for biology and chemistry, and my passion for teaching to truly make a positive impact in the world. My name is Ashley, and I am a firm believer in the phrase “Everything in life happens for a reason.” I am thankful for the opportunities that have led me to this program, and I could not be more ecstatic to become a secondary education science teacher.

science_teacher_business_card-rf4571083c3054cb5826160227261fd7b_xwjey_8byvr_512Our life stories, interactions and the history of the world are what lead us to where we stand today. It is often difficult to imagine what the world was like years ago before scientists made discoveries of elements, gas laws, and chemical reactions. How did scientists think back then compared to the scientists in present day? What evidence was needed in order to design something so grand as the periodic table? Today’s understanding of the world stems from the knowledge of the past and our ability to apply it to present situations. Throughout this blog, I plan to investigate the history of chemistry and the ways to introduce scientific thought into the high school classroom. I want to discover ways to make this integration of history exciting, applicable, and innovative. Providing students with a historical context to actively investigate concepts can provide more interest and a instill a deeper desire to learn and think like a scientist. Sometimes, it is difficult to pause when everyone is so caught up in a concept. However, by taking time to understand how the concept, idea or theory was discovered, one can gain a better understanding of what they were trying to learn in first place.

I have a degree in molecular biology, but chemistry is my passion. I feel that the history of chemistry was left out in many of my courses and discussing it would have enhanced my understanding. It would have provided a more relevant context to indicate what we were doing was no just solving another equation. As a result, I want to learn more about this topic in order to effectively teach my students. I look forward to partaking in this blogging journey with you to discover the history of chemistry and how it can be used to inspire excitement, innovation and inquiry in my students.