Knowledge Level Chemistry

Below are some things I’ve done cumulatively over the years with my kids to make Chemistry part of our everyday life. It fits the way I teach and how I try to accommodate my learners. I hope it inspires you, Kari

Shadowbox or basket of elements.

Putting examples of chemical elements (like a balloon for helium or knitting needle for aluminum) brings the elements on the periodic table into an everyday perspective. It is like phonics to reading. Learning the elements will make high school chemistry make so much more sense (which after studying Apologia Chemistry with my oldest, I see how nebulous high school chemistry is without the knowledge level of elements). Now, my children and I pepper our vocabulary with elements in everyday conversation, similar to how relevant scripture becomes part of daily conversation. If you only did one thing for “young person chemistry”–this is what I would do. (the link will not have a complete list, but provide a good beginning. This activity compliments the next idea).

Learn the Elements

Next, I bought an e-book a couple of years ago from a mom/teacher on teaching the elements to children. She argues that children should be able to use the Periodic Table of Elements like they use a world map. I have found her philosophy to be doable and true. I have used her explanation for understanding the Periodic table, facts about the elements, and coloring pages with whole family learning (ages 6-12 simultaneously) . Along with her e-book of one lesson on each element, I’ve slowly been adding one demonstration for each element (like separating hydrogen from water with a battery).

Learn the Periodic Table

On the internet is a downloadable periodic table with pictures of everyday object made with each element. A second version uses words in each box of the table describing what the element is used for. So as a family each child has a periodic table to use: my 12 year-old read reads the words to everyone from his table, the 9 year-old deciphers the pictures on his table to everyone, and the 6 year-old uses her “kiddie version” from the mom mentioned above to tell us all the symbol and atomic number (and protons) of the element we are studying that day.

More ideas and resources chemistry guide has some doable (some not because chemicals needed are not easily available) demonstrations, an interactive Periodic Table of elements with photos of the elements, and overall knowledge (lists) to help build the vocabulary of chemistry. You can subscribe to the mailing list. This is where I got the instructions for the smoke bomb when we studied the Chinese people.

Chemistry Experiments for Children published by Dover. It’s more mature than the typical modern experiment books for kids.

Read biographies aloud about Chemists such as, Mendeleev (ordered the Periodic Table). God is a God of order (I Corinthians 14: 33, 40) or the Curries. Mauve: How one man invented a color that changed the world (about William Perkin and the modern invention and marketability of chemistry, Wow!)

There’s plenty of chemistry to do around the house with chemicals from the pharmacy and grocery store. But if you needed more there is a good source on the internet of small quantities for a small price.

Useful household chemistry your children can be responsible for: making healing salve, elderberry syrup, homemade cheese, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent.

Look in books or the internet for demonstrations that are more fun than educational: “goo” made with borax and glue (explain the chemistry of polymers); drop Mentos into Coke (reaction with the citric acid); vinegar and baking soda for “volcanoes” or to enlarge baggies (reaction of carbon dioxide, baggie shows the gas expands); similarly add dye to vinegar and drop w/ droppers into baking soda on a plate for little kid activity.