Week 1: Introducing Chemistry

As we dive into a new year and a new term, we are leaping in with both feet to the study of chemistry. All our students, ages 4 and up will be engaging with chemistry concepts for 20 weeks (with a holiday break in the middle of our two 10-week terms). It is our hope to give them an ability to interface with chemistry concepts (imagining and visualizing what is going on at the atomic and molecular level), and become familiar with the structures, history, and applications of chemistry through hands-on experience. Chemistry is truly not an easy subject to tackle, but there are a number of quality resources available that have allowed us to bring together a solid set of lessons and activities to help the children dive in with confidence. As a teacher of one of the classes, I have learned many interesting things just through my reading and preparation for class! I see these efforts as a long-term investment, knowing that some of the information washing over the kids will not be immediately make sense, but will hopefully provide them with a banquet of ideas that they can reach for in the future when they meet Chemistry again, later in their education journey.

We’re beginning this term by teaching from the text The Elements, by Ellen McHenry, which provides a number of very accessible illustrations and activities to help introduce kids to basic chemistry. It is recommended for students ages 8-13, but we are adapting some activities from it for our age 4-7 students with success as well.

Kids often do well learning material that is set to music, so for this term we are teaching the kids a periodic table song to familiarize them with the names of elements, focusing on pronunciation and general familiarity with the periodic table and how to read and use it effectively. There are a number of songs out there, but we decided to go with the catchy & nicely produced “NEW Periodic Table Song” by AsapSCIENCE.

We also give the kids a chance to learn about notable discoveries and advancements in chemistry as we weekly add to a timeline featuring historical figures and events in the discipline.

Specifically this week, our kids did a number of activities to spark their curiosity about elements.

To illustrate some basic concepts, we shared a short production that looks to have been created by some MIT students: What’s All the Matter? There are also a series of videos available at Crash Course Chemistry, although the presenter speaks very quickly, and the material seems best suited to students 8+.

Our AG Class began constructing a jumbo-size periodic table with removable cards. They will have an opportunity build and rebuild the table in sections weekly, and eventually as a whole. They did a lab that showed water breaking apart into its two base elements, and played some games familiarizing them with element symbols.

Our younger classes started the conversation by looking at individual element cards, explaining the symbols, atomic number, and practicing the pronunciation of various names of elements. Then, we talked about how elements are like ingredients, first creating (totally messy) no-bake cookies from our own set of ‘elements’, and then whipping up some imaginary chemical recipes by learning how to read the name of a compound and figuring out how many molecules of each element would be needed to create the recipe.

All in all, it was a great first-day!



For this term, the study of history looks a little different than normal for our co-op. Instead of a full-fledged set of history classes spanning our different age groups, we have combined the kids together for a review of history, group discussion for our current history reading in Story of the World, Volume 3, and some simple hands-on activities that speak to our current reading for the week. Below, everyone is engaged in a review/reconstruction of a historical timeline and connecting specific events to where they happened on a world map. 



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