Exploring Elements (23 Favorites)

PROJECT in Elements, History, Periodic Table, Covalent Bonding, Ionic Bonding, Atomic Mass, Subatomic Particles. Last updated August 7, 2017.


In this project, students will select an element and then use Ptable.com to explore aspects of the element including its periodicity, electron configuration, history, and uses in industry.

Grade Level

Middle and High School

NGSS Standards

  • MS-PS1-1: Develop models to describe atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures.
  • HS-PS1-1: Use the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.


By the end of this project, students should be able to

  • Identify the chemical symbol, atomic mass, and atomic weight for an element.
  • Identify the number of protons, neutrons, and electrons in one atom of an element.
  • Create Bohr diagrams.
  • Describe the types of elements that bond together.
  • Explain how different elements are used in daily life.

Chemistry Topics

This project supports students’ understanding of

  • Periodic Table
  • Elements
  • Atomic Structure
  • Subatomic Particles
  • Atomic Mass
  • Bohr Model
  • Bonding


Teacher Preparation:

Activity 1: 10 minutes

Activity 2: 10 minutes

Activity 3: 5 minutes

Activity 4: 5 minutes

Total: 30 minutes


Activity 1: 20 minutes

Activity 2: 40 minutes

Activity 3: 40 minutes

Activity 4: 40 minutes

Total: 140 minutes


  • Activity 1
    • Student worksheet
    • Blank paper for periodic table square
    • Ptable.com
    • Computer/tablet with internet access
  • Activity 2
    • Student worksheet
    • Items for 3D Bohr diagrams:
      • Objects to create orbitals (wire, string, paper, etc.)
      • Objects to represent electrons (marbles, bouncy balls, pom poms, etc.)
      • Quantities needed will vary based on the elements selected by students
    • Ptable.com
    • Computer/tablet with internet access
  • Activity 3
    • Student worksheet
    • Items for molecule models
      • Objects to hold molecules together (straws, toothpicks, pipe cleaners, etc.)
      • Objects to represent atoms (marbles, Styrofoam balls, clay/play dough, pom poms, etc.)
      • Quantities needed will vary based on the compounds/molecules selected by students
    • Ptable.com
    • Computer/tablet with internet access
  • Activity 4
    • Student worksheet
    • Ptable.com
    • Paper and pictures (computer generated, student drawn, or from print media) for collage
    • Computer/tablet with internet access


  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • Activity 1: This part of the project serves as an introduction to the periodic table of elements. The students do not need to have previous experience with the periodic table to complete this activity.
  • Prior to beginning the activity, the teacher should spend time reviewing ptable.com in order to be familiar with the layout of the site and how to best guide students in finding information.
  • To begin the activity, the teacher should have the students explore ptable.com for a few minutes, to help them become familiar with the content. The teacher should provide students with a copy of the student handout and then have the students focus on selecting an element for their project. It is important that the students understand the element they select will be the element they use for the duration of the project. While requiring students to each select a different element for the project is helpful in providing students with an opportunity to view a greater variety of models, it is not required for the activity. Unless they are working with a partner, students who choose the same element should have similar answers to the questions on the hand out, but student models may differ in construction types.
  • Teachers may have students work with a partner or individually for the project.
  • The teacher may preselect elements from which students may choose their element or the teacher may allow students to choose themselves. Teachers may find it helpful to limit the elements from which students may select, as the selection may impact the level of difficulty for the rest of the activities in the project, especially because elements with higher atomic numbers will have more complex Bohr models.
  • The students should use the Wikipedia tab of ptable.com to answer the first five questions on the student activity sheet. Once those questions have been answered, the teacher should review them for accuracy and then provide the student with a blank square of paper.
  • The student should then complete a periodic table square, a larger scale replica of an element square from a typical periodic table, to represent their element. The completed squares can be joined together to make a class periodic table, or the students can keep their squares to add them to the next projects. For instance, later parts of the project include a gallery walk in which students view each other’s work. The periodic square could be place beside the Bohr model from Activity 2.
  • Activity 2: The goal of Activity 2 is for students to apply their understanding of subatomic particles to their selected element by answering questions and creating a 3D model of a Bohr model.
  • This portion of the project should be used after students have learned about subatomic particles, how to determine the number of protons, neutrons, and electrons in a stable atom, and how to draw a Bohr model.
  • Prior to having the students answer the written questions for Activity 2, the teacher should review how to determine the number of subatomic particles. A review of Bohr diagrams, as a student reminder, is also helpful.
  • From there, the students should work independently to complete the Activity 2 portion of the handout. Once the students have answered the written questions on the student worksheet, students should double check their work using the Orbitals tab of ptable.com, and the teacher should assess the answers for accuracy.
  • From there, the students may begin to build their 3D Bohr model. The students should refer to their drawing of the Bohr model for assistance in creating the three dimensional figure. It may be helpful for the student to count out all of the items necessary for representing electrons prior to building the structure, to ensure the necessary amount of materials are available. The teacher may have a supply table from which students may obtain materials or the model building could be a homework activity.
  • Activity 3: The goal of Activity 3 is to have students apply their knowledge of chemical bonding to their specific element by answering questions and building a model of a compound.
  • Prior to beginning Activity 3, students should have at least a basic understanding of bonding and how elements bond together to make molecules and compounds.
  • The teacher should review bonding basics with students and then have them use the Compounds tab of ptable.com to answer the Activity 3 questions on the student worksheet. After the students have answered the questions on the student worksheet, the teacher should review the work for accuracy.
  • Then the student should begin working on the model portion of the activity, which requires the students to create a model of a compound. As with Activity 2, the teacher can have a supply table from which students may obtain the materials to create their compound model or the models could be completed at home as homework.
  • Students who chose a noble gas may be asked to supply different information, such as a reason for why they do not bond with other elements. These students could also be asked to complete this activity using the halogen before their element or the alkali metal after it.
  • Activity 4: The purpose of Activity 4 is for students to investigate and demonstrate an understanding of the role that elements play in daily life. No prior knowledge is necessary for the completion of this portion of the project.
  • The students should begin this section by using the Wikipedia tab of ptable.com to complete the written questions in the Activity 4 section of the student worksheet. The teacher should review the questions for accuracy and have the students begin working on their collage.
  • The collage can be completed as an online document, a drawing, or from pictures cut out of print media.
  • Extension: Students could create scavenger hunt clues for their element and classmates could complete the scavenger hunt.
  • Overall project suggestions: It is helpful to have students complete a gallery walk after one or more activities in the project have been completed. A gallery walk is when students display their work and all students in the class view the projects.
  • Viewing of the gallery is generally accompanied by a specific task. For instance, in a gallery walk to review student work from Activity 3, students could be asked to identify a compound that has a similar element as their own compound or to identify the element that was part of the most compounds.
  • In a gallery walk for Activity 2, students could be asked to identify the element with the lowest number of filled orbitals and the element with the highest number of filled orbitals.
  • It is important to note that the gallery walk, in these instances, is not intended to judge the quality of student projects.
  • This project may be assessed in a variety of ways. Because the activities take place throughout a chemistry unit, the teacher may award points for the accurate completion of each separate activity, as it is completed. Alternately, the teacher may wait until all of the activities have been completed and score the project as a whole.
  • Sample project assessment scores:
    • Activity 1
      • Written questions: One point for each correctly answered written question.
      • Draw it: One point each for correctly identifying the name and symbol of the element, date of discovery, name of the person who discovered the element, the group, and period where the element is located. One point if the square is colored correctly.
    • Activity 2
      • Written questions: One point for each correctly answered written question and two points for a correctly drawn Bohr model.
      • Model it: Two points for the correct number of protons, two points for the correct number of neutrons, two points for including a key for identifying the subatomic particles in the model, two points for the correct number of electrons, and two points for placing the electrons in the correct orbitals.
    • Activity 3
      • Written questions: One point for each correctly answered written question.
      • Model it: Eight points for representing the correct number and type of atoms. Two points for labeling the model.
    • Activity 4
      • Written paragraph: Five points for writing a coherent paragraph that includes at least six uses of the element.
      • Model it: Five points for including at least five appropriate pictures depicting the use of the element.

For the Student

Exploring Elements

This will be an ongoing project throughout the chemistry unit. You will select one element from the periodic table of elements and then complete various activities to demonstrate your understanding of chemistry. You will work individually on the project.

Activity 1: Elemental Background

Due date:

For this part of the project, you will select an element that you will work with throughout the unit. Once you have selected an element, check with your teacher for approval. After your element selection has been approved, go to ptable.com and select the Wikipedia tab. Use the information to complete 1-5 below. This section is worth five points and the periodic square drawing is worth five points.

Determine the following about your selected element:

  1. Name and symbol of the element:
  2. Date of discovery:
  3. Name of the person who discovered the element:
  4. Group:
  5. Period and identify whether the element is a nonmetal, metal, or metalloid:

Draw it:

Create the periodic table square for your element on the provided blank piece of paper.

Your drawing must include:

  • Name
  • Element Symbol
  • Atomic Number
  • Atomic mass
  • Lightly color your square blue if it is a metal, green if it is a metalloid, or orange if it is a nonmetal

Activity 2: What’s in an Atom?

Due date:

Element name:

For this part of the project, you will think about the parts of an atom of your element. Fill in the information below for five points and complete the model for ten points. Before moving on to the “Model it” part of the activity, a classmate should use ptable.com to check your work and write their initials where indicated below.

Determine the following about your selected element:

  • Number of neutrons in one atom of your element:
  • Number of protons in one atom of your element:
  • Number of electrons in one atom of your element:
  • Draw a Bohr diagram of your element:

*Partner check and initials:

Model it:

Create a 3D Bohr diagram of your element.

The model must include:

  • Correct number of protons
  • Correct number of neutrons
  • Correct number of electrons placed in the correct orbitals.
  • Your model should also include a key that explains which objects are representing electrons, protons, and neutrons.

Activity 3: Making Molecules

Due date:

Element Name:

Use the Orbitals tab of ptable.com to answer the questions below. The questions are worth four points total and the model is worth ten points.


  • Does the element bond with other elements?

If not, select the halogen before your element or the alkali metal after it to complete this activity. Write the name of the element you selected here:

  • List at least four other elements that your element will bond with:
  • Now using the elements listed in question 2, write the chemical formulas for each of

the compounds or molecules that are formed when combined with your element:

  • Are there any elements or molecules with which your element reacts violently? If so, which ones?

Model it:

Create a 3D model of one of the compounds or molecules you listed in question number three from above.

The model must include:

  • The correct number of atoms of each element
  • Each element must be appropriately labeled

Activity 4: Elements all Around

Due Date:

Element name:

In this section, you will explore the usefulness of your element. For five points, write a paragraph about your element. Include information about where your element is found, how it is used by various industries, and everyday items that contain the element. Use the Wikipedia tab of ptable.com as a resource.

Written paragraph about your element:

Model it:

  • Create a collage of appropriate pictures of your element and how it is used.
  • The collage should basically illustrate the paragraph you wrote.