The Chemistry of a Family-Style Dinner – Ideas Invited!

periodic dinner

 

My good friend, an AP Literature teacher, inspires me to challenge my students (and myself) to think creatively. Students love her teaching style and line up to take her class. All the while, they say her assignments push the limits of their critical thinking abilities and bring out creative thinking talents they never knew they had. I want to do that.

 

            Science is creative; it requires new ideas, new patterns, and new solutions to old problems. A deep understanding of the periodic table is the most critical knowledge in chemistry. I want my students to experience the table and conceptualize its trends in a deeper way. Combining creative ideas from an AP Lit project with my honors chemistry content, I am brainstorming about a more engaging, more challenging summative assessment on periodic table families. I would love to hear your ideas and collaborate to build an exciting assessment.

 

            Here are my ideas:

 

  • Main theme - Student groups of six are assigned one significant family or area of the periodic table: alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, transition metals, halogens, and noble gases. Ask each group to host a “family-style” dinner party.
  • Logistics – Groups will have a single class period to provide a learning experience for the rest of the class. The group is responsible for transforming the classroom into the family home with food, furnishings, decorations, and more. The group members will personify the elements.
  • Required Invitation – What would an alkali metal include in an invitation to other elements? What type of invitation would an alkali metal choose? Include a meaningful address and RSVP method.
  • Décor – What kind of art would be on the walls of an alkali metals house? What sort of books would be on their shelves? What clippings or pictures might be on the refrigerator? What trophies might be on the shelves? (Picture the “Wall of Gaylord” in the “Meet the Fockers” movie!)
  • Food – What kind of foods would be served in the alkali metal house? Would they have servers, or would the family members serve themselves?
  • Personality – Group members will become six elements of the group. They will symbolize characteristics of the elements in terms of atomic radius, reactivity, ionization energy, and more with costumes, quotes, and personalities during the family dinner.

 

I would love to collaborate with you on this assessment. Do you have a similar project that you are already using? Do you have additions or suggestions? Do you have advice or ideas for grading or rubrics? How can I model my expectation for my students?

 

Join the conversation.

Comments 3

Steve Kircher's picture
Steve Kircher | Thu, 05/14/2015 - 10:20

I'm going to try this next year.  I do something similar in my Chemistry class when we get into this subject.  I bring in a pile of t shirts with element symbols on them (I use markers) and have the students grab one that fits.  Then I tell them we're at a dance and they have to pick a compatible partner.  I mingle and advise them of their pairings.  We do this for about three rotations or until they get the right combinations.

Allison Tarvin's picture
Allison Tarvin | Thu, 05/14/2015 - 20:10

What a great idea!  This would be a great hook to introduce the larger project.  It would give the students the experience of "being an element."