Science -- Your Future, Scotland's Future
SCI-FUN Roadshow Exhibits -- Periodic Table
SCI-FUN Roadshow Exhibits -- Periodic Table
In this exhibit you learn about how some of the elements in the periodic table make up the world around us.

The periodic table lists all of the elements that we know exist. Elements are mixed and joined together in different ways to make up the whole Universe. We can find out useful information about the elements by looking at the table – their atomic number, atomic weight, name and symbol. The way the elements are arranged also tells us how they behave.

Similar elements are grouped together in columns (known as groups), and elements of similar weight grouped together in rows (known as periods). Mendeleev drew the first periodic table in 1869. When he drew it, he left gaps for elements he thought would exist but hadn’t been found yet. We have since filled in those gaps with elements that are just like the ones Mendeleev imagined.

In the periodic table activity you find out what elements some common substances were made from, including water, table salt, sugar and petrol. You also find out which elements occur in certain places, including our bodies, our atmosphere and the Universe. And you learn what elements have certain effects, including greenhouse gases and radioactive elements.

Did you notice that a lot of things contained carbon? Sugar and petrol are both made of carbon, as are our bodies. All living things are made of carbon, and sugar and petrol both come from living things. Sugar is made by plants from carbon dioxide and water. Petrol is made from dead animals and plants crushed down over millions of years. Carbon is also found in our atmosphere and in greenhouse gases.

We eat sugar: that’s where we get our energy from. To get energy out of sugar our cells react it with oxygen (also found in our bodies, the atmosphere and greenhouse gases), which releases carbon dioxide and water (hydrogen and oxygen). Outside of the body, we burn petrol with oxygen, giving off carbon dioxide and water, just like sugar. Carbon dioxide is in our atmosphere because we breathe it out and release it when we burn things, and it is also a greenhouse gas.

So carbon is really important in all living things, and in how we make energy both inside and outside the body.

1 From the periodic table, we can find out the elements’ atomic number, atomic ___________, name and symbol.
2 Who drew the first periodic table?
3 What element are all living things made of?
4 What is water made of?
5 What do we get when we burn petrol?
6 Do you know what we use the symbols of the elements for?

1 With an adult’s supervision, light a candle. Hold a cold metal spoon at an angle a few centimetres above the flame. After a while you will see condensation and eventually small droplets of water on the spoon. This is because burning things releases carbon dioxide and water.
2 Dissolve one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in a glass half full of water. Slowly add vinegar to the glass until it is ¾ full. You will see bubbles coming up. The bubbles coming off are carbon dioxide, and the reaction also produces water. Just like our bodies getting energy from sugar and our vehicles burning petrol, this is another reaction that releases carbon dioxide and water.