Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The Paint Chip Lab

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The Paint Chip Lab

Article excerpt

Byline: Lisa Wallingford

Figure 1. Paint chips

Early on in the study of physical science, students must grasp concepts associated with the periodic table. In my classes, we spend hours talking about the chemical and physical properties of the elements and playing games arranging elements so that students might begin to see and understand all the information this simple table contains. But before we ever begin looking for periodicity or electron arrangement, we use paint chip color samples (Figure 1).

Paint chips are the perfect way to introduce periodicity and periodic groups (Herr and Cunningham 1999). The next time you go to the hardware store take a look: the paint chip display is a giant periodic table. The color progression (red-orange-yellow-green-blue-purple) resembles the periodic properties on the table, and the color shade (light to dark) resembles the trends within the groups. The goal is for students to create small, incomplete periodic tables using paint chips to grasp the idea of the periodic table and how Mendeleev put the original table together.

To prepare cards for the activity, select six standard rainbow color strips that are at least slightly different in hue-each hue strip typically has five to seven shades. (Note: Once you have collected all the paint chip cards, mark out the identification number, otherwise students might focus on the numbers rather than the shades.) Cut each color strip into its individual color shade rectangles.

Figure 2. Student table.

Divide students into five groups of two to five students each. Prepare five lab bags, one for each student group, that contain a color shade rectangle from each hue group-however, remove a few color shades from each bag. When students construct their periodic tables, these "missing colors" allow students to predict and consider which elements are missing from their tables (Figure 2), just as Mendeleev did with elements that had not yet been discovered when he published his table in 1869.

Divide students into five groups. Instruct students to research Dmitri Mendeleev's work on the periodic table in the school library or on the internet. Inform students that they will be performing a lab to create an incomplete periodic table using the physical property "color" as a guide.

Have students arrange their chips by color, left to right, in the order of a rainbow. Then instruct students to arrange the shades of each color, top to bottom, from light to dark. …

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