homeschooling,  science

Elementeo, the card game, and other resources for teaching children about the elements.

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My husband bought a copy of the game Elementeo. It is a card game something like Magic: the Gathering, where cards provide different monsters or abilities with which to attack the other player, except in this game the characters are based off of the elements. There is Chromium Crook and Iodine Mermaid. Each card has a little description of the character that refers in some way to what the element is used for.

Yesterday before playing, I did something else with the game, that I’ve been wanting to do for a couple of weeks now. I spread one set of cards out on the floor and arranged them in the pattern of the periodic table.  The game doesn’t include the whole table, so this gave me a chance to see elements it does include and which it leaves out. It also gave me a chance to point out some of the patterns to the boys. They got to see where the metals are, where the noble gasses are and so on, and while they’ve seen that in books before I think it meant more to them doing it this way, after having played the game several times and started to get a sense of the “personalities” assigned to the cards.

The instructions for the game outlines different “levels” at which to play the game so beginners can start off quite simply with just the element cards, and two other collections of cards in subsequent games. Games are reasonably short and I like that since it means I can slip in a game while my youngest naps. One of the sets of cards to be added in after the players get used to the element deck is a deck of Compounds. Players can choose to trade in their element cards in exchange for compound cards. There’s only a small number of compounds to be built, but they highlight the necessity of carbon and oxygen.

One of the nice things about the game is the blank cards included in it so that players can create their own cards. It’s an opportunity to encourage the kids to pitch to us why their favorite element, compound or scientific theory would make a great card.

As always I want to follow up on what the children are learning with yet more. I’ve been looking at a lego chemical reactions lesson, and thinking I’ll probably do that with them fairly soon. I’m reviewing information from the beautiful book The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe by Theodore Gray and from the stranger book The Disappearing Spoon. I spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to study just to keep ahead of the kids a tiny bit.

While we haven’t watched any movies from the Periodic Table of Videos for a while, I might try to get my kids to make connections between that and the characters from Elementeo. Then of course there’s the old stand by of making models of compounds out of a special model set. We’ve done that before some, but we’ll do that again soon. Oooh… and there is always the They Might Be Giants songs to turn to, particularly their song Meet the Elements.

Why do I want to familiarize my children with the periodic table? There are so many reasons. I want to be able to discuss news stories with them, like the recent news stories about the shortage of helium. Elements come up in discussions around ancient history and the trade routes that supplied ancient cultures with the materials for bronze. They learnt about the non-flammability of nitrogen when we were reading about space travel and the need for nitrogen in the spaceships air supply to reduce the risk of fires. They are fascinated by the idea that hydrogen and oxygen react to create water. We discuss nitrogen and phosphorus in discussions of soil and of the role of phosphorus in promoting blue-green algae growth. We talk about the creation of elements and the idea that we are all star-dust. The more we learn about the elements the more amazing the world seems.

Updated to add: Learning about Marie Curie brought many more stories about elements, particularly but not exclusively radium, into our lives.

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