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Universal Preschool's Science Expert: Teresa Bondora
Teresa Bondora graduated from UAB in 1991 with a BS in Education/Science. She taught science in public schools for 8 years where she realized that something was terribly wrong with the way schools teach science. Teresa believes that to foster an elitist attitude toward the "harder" sciences, to save chemistry for high school, and to use books that stress content -- is very damaging and not at all the way to show children how science works. She set out to help her students learn to love science and not to fear it.
Teresa left her teaching position to become a stay-at-home-mom and now homeschools her son and daughter. Because she missed teaching and missed seeing the pride on the faces of students who came to her classes scared and went away knowing and loving science — she determined that she wanted to share her love of science with others. She developed a website to do just that at www.HowToTeachScience.com. There, she provides all kinds of free science lessons, information, and resources, including her latest project, the Primary Periodic Table of Elements.
We asked Teresa to share some of her ideas for teaching The Periodic Table of Elements to young children...
The Preschooler's Periodic Table of Elements
By Teresa Bondora,
Founder of www.HowToTeachScience.com
When our babies are born, they come into a world of sight and sound that can be overwhelming. And what do we do? We speak in a language they don't understand. We show them toys they can't use. We expose them to things that they can't comprehend. For example, we hang a mobile of the solar system in their room or put maps on their wall when they can't grasp the concept of Earth. And then a miracle happens. They begin to speak. They start learning words, making sentences, asking questions and assimilating knowledge based on what they've been exposed to.
In my opinion, we should have the Periodic Table of Elements on the wall as well. Everything on our planet is made from the items on the periodic table. It is a very basic tool. It shouldn't be guarded like a secret and sprung on our children when they are teenagers. What if we taught no math to our children but then, in 6th grade, popped out with the square root table and told them we were now going to start math? We would find that most unusual but we do this very thing with science.
But if, like math, we presented the periodic table in a basic way exposing them to it day in and day out, do you think science and chemistry would be intimidating to them? Just like learning math, they would know it, be fluent in its use and accept it as a normal part of life from which they could choose to continue their studies.
So why is it not on the walls in homes, preschools, and kindergartens? Why isn't it in children's books? Why isn't it in children's television programming? I believe it's because many people fear chemistry. And I believe that fear is passed on to our children through our silence.
As a science teacher and a mom, I can assure you that teaching the table is easy. All it takes is placing one on the wall. You do not have to be a chemist to teach the periodic table just as you do not have to be Pythagorus to teach math. It literally can be as simple as pointing to "Cu" (copper) on the Periodic Table of Elements as you show your child a penny. Here are some more ideas:
Preschool Periodic Table Activities
Meet The Periodic Table of Elements!
To introduce the Periodic Table of Elements to your children, simply get one and hang it on the wall in your home. Let your kids look at it. Answer the "What is that?" question with "Everything in the whole world is made up of these elements." Spend the next week or so, mentioning items from the periodic table as you come across them in everyday life. For example:
- Gold Ring — Show them your wedding ring. Explain that it's made out of gold. Point to the "Au" square on the periodic table that represents Gold.
- Helium Balloon — Show them a balloon that rises and tell them it has helium in it. Show them the "He" square on the periodic table that represents Helium.
- Vitamin & Mineral Supplement — Do you give your child a multi-vitamin and mineral tablet each day? If so, explain that their Flintstones chewables include the minerals Iron (Fe), Calcium (Ca), and Zinc (Zn) - and point those elements out on the periodic table.
- Sterling Silverware - Do you have sterling silver forks, knives, and spoons? Show your child Silver (Ag) on the periodic table.
- Thermometer — Do you have a thermometer that contains mercury? If so, show it to your child and point to the "Hg" or Mercury square on the periodic table.
- Table Salt — Sprinkle some salt on popcorn and explain that two elements combine to make salt - then, point to the "Na" (Sodium) and "Cl" (Chlorine) squares on the periodic table. The combination of the two elements becomes NaCl, called sodium chloride.
Do this over a period of time to create a sense of comfort with the periodic table for you, as well as them. Here are some other activities that will reinforce their knowledge of the Periodic Table of Elements:
Make An Elements Basket!
Everything in the universe is made up of items from the Periodic Table of Elements. Use an elements basket to show children what their world is made of. Get a basket and start collecting items made from elements to place in the basket. Some ideas include:
- A penny for copper (Cu),
- A five-cent coin for nickel (Ni)
- An aluminum (Al) soda can
- A balloon that held helium (He) but has deflated some (so it will fit in the basket)
- A piece of charcoal (or a diamond ring!) for carbon (C)
- A chicken bone to represent calcium (Ca)
- A small iron skillet for iron (Fe)
- A cubic zircon ring for zirconium (Zr)
- Raid your first aid kit for bottled iodine (I)
- Find an old lead pipe or fitting to represent lead (Pb)
Your children will enjoy helping to collect items for the basket and will wonder allowed what elements things in their environment are made from. If you don't know, show them how to look the information up by using the Internet or visit your local library for assistance. Empower your children by showing them how to find answers to their questions. It's research! Then, try these activities...
Match Game -- Get a Periodic Table and enlarge it with a photocopier. Set it on a table or floor. Then, ask your toddler to put the items from your "Elements Basket" on the Periodic Table where they belong - match the items in the basket to the element they represent on the Periodic Table.
The Breakfast Periodic Table - Show your child the ingredients and nutrition label from a cereal box. Together, try to find how many elements from the Periodic Table are in their cereal. One cereal notorious for its Iron (Fe) content is "Total." If you crush the cereal up, you can use a magnet and actually pull the iron out of the cereal!
Periodic Table Cut Outs -- Make a copy of the periodic table to cut up. Cut the squares out and have your child try to place them together on a blank piece of paper to reconstruct the periodic table. Or just cut out a few familiar elements, and challenge your child to place them on the Periodic Table where they belong.
The goal of these activities is to have your children become familiar with the Periodic Table so that they have no fear of it. Once they feel comfortable with it, they will begin asking questions that will lead to learning basic chemistry. And chemistry is the mother science. All the other sciences begin and end with Chemistry!
I hope you agree that placing a periodic table on the wall is a wonderful gift you can give your children. Our children are capable of learning basic chemistry at an early age. It's my dream to change societal attitudes about science and chemistry, by fostering learning about the Periodic Table of Elements at a young age.
To that end, I have designed a Primary Periodic Table of Elements, along with a guide for parents and teachers. I have created a coloring book and information book about the elements, for children of all ages. The books include data about each element, how the element was discovered, how it got its name, how the element is used, how we get the element, as well as scientific information about it such as atomic number and weight. For more information please visit: www.howtoteachscience.com