Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

Joyce Fruchter

Yeshiva of Flatbush H.S.

August 2005


What are the elements and their symbols?


To be used either in the beginning of the year for a fun way to start a chemistry class, or alternatively, later in the year as an introduction to the unit on the Periodic Table of Elements.


Aim:  What is chemistry?  What is matter?

Alternatively:  What are the elements and their symbols?


After a brief introduction about elements and their symbols and a look at Table S of the Reference Tables that are given to the students, divide the students into groups and hand out the “chemistry song.”  Ask students to find the symbol of each of the elements mentioned in the song on Table S and write them down.  After a quick introduction to the Periodic Table of Elements also located in the Reference Tables, have the students locate and circle the elements on the table.  Play the song or show animation


If this is done at the beginning of the year as an introduction to a chemistry course this would lead to what is chemistry and ultimately to what is matter with a discussion of how matter is anything that takes up space and has mass.  (A quick review of the distinction between mass and weight might be worthwhile.)

Each of these would be demonstrated with any one of a number of demos.

For example: 

Matter takes up space

Take a glass bottle and demonstrate to the class that it is empty. Fit it with a two-hole rubber stopper into which a thistle tube and a bent glass tube is inserted.  Attempts to add a colored solution into the jar through the thistle tube.  Elicit that it will not enter because the jar is already filled with air.  

Matter has mass 

If air is matter it must also have mass.  Ask students how they might demonstrate this.  They often suggest using a balloon.  Elicit that a filled balloon demonstrates that the air takes up space but how might the balloon be used to demonstrate that air has mass.

Use a triple beam balance, scotch tape and balloon to demonstrate that air has mass.  Weigh the balloon and a small piece of tape on the balance.  Have a student blow into the balloon. Reweigh.  The balloon will be heavier than before.


Conclusion:  Air is matter.  It has mass and volume (takes up space). 

When asked what else has these characteristics, students should recognize that olids and liquids also satisfy these requirements.


Summary:  Matter takes up space and has mass.  There are three phases of matter:  solid, liquid, and gas.


National Standards:  collaborative learning, science as inquiry, technology, structure and properties of matter.