One of my favorite things to do with younger children is introduce higher-level concepts in an elementary way. I love to see them “get it” when they shouldn’t even be seeing these things for a number of years yet! It’s amazing to see what children can learn when they are just given the chance and the right approach to grasp it for their age.
One of those things has been chemistry this semester. We have been introducing the concepts of atoms, molecules, and the Periodic Table of Elements (PTE). I wanted to find a fun way for them to really start to understand the break down of the PTE and each element. It always helps when they can get their hands into a concept in a way that will really stick with them. So, I had an idea of creating a giant Periodic Table of Elements board using egg cartons!
What you’ll need to build a model Periodic Table of Elements
- 45” x 35” Piece of Cardboard (you can use any appliance box and cut it to size)
- 11 Egg Cartons (flat bottomed egg cartons work best)
- Kilz White Paint
- The Periodic Table: Elements with Style! book (optional –could use online PTE graphic of your choice instead)
- Poster from the book (or make a 11”x17” copy of the PTE graphic you chose instead)
- Card Stock Copy of the PTE graphic you chose (this will be cut up to put on board)
- Paints in colors you choose to match book or printed PTE
- Hot Glue Gun
This project will take a couple days because of drying time for paints. It took our co-op 3 class periods to make it and about 3 hours of time total.
How to build a model Periodic Table of Elements
Step 1: CUT the egg cartons so they will lie flat on your board. This will mean you have to cut or tear out the peaks inside the egg cartons that go between the rows. Then arrange them to match the number of columns and rows in your PTE graphic’s lay out. It may require cutting some of the egg cartons down smaller. Two areas on the top of both sides will require just one each to be cut out.
Step 2: ARRANGE all the egg cartons exactly how you want them and then hot glue them into place, being sure to keep your arrangement matching your PTE graphic.
Step 3: PAINT the entire board white with Kilz on Day 1. This will give you a good base for the next layer of paint colors on the following day.
Step 4: PAINT egg cartons with colors that match the PTE graphic you have chosen. On Day 2, paint each row checking that you have covered all sides. We used slips of construction paper between rows to avoid painting the rows beside the one the kids were working on. You could also use a painters’ tape, if desired.
Older kids can generally free-hand without getting the paint in places they don’t intend. You will most likely have to mix colors to get the shades you want. (Tip: Save old applesauce cups or fruit cups to reuse as paint holders for these types of projects.)
Step 5: CUT out each element from the 11”x17” card stock copy of your PTE graphic. These will now be arranged on your egg cartons in order of the PTE and hot glued individually onto each egg carton to match the PTE graphic layout.
Step 6: ENJOY! You can create a frame for your PTE Board using pieces of interior trim. Paint the trim and hang your board to enjoy for years to come!