Adopt an Element Research Project (Part 2/3)

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SWBAT demonstrate knowledge of elements and the periodic table by obtaining, evaluating and communicating information.

Big Idea

Students "adopt" an element, learn about their element and create a “baby block” cube to display their research.


You are now the proud parent of an element baby! Congratulations on your new responsibility.  Being a parent can be really need to understand your element baby, so that you know how to take care of it. Is your baby radioactive? Should you be wearing a protective suit? Is your baby a gas at room temperature?  Maybe it needs to be kept in a special container, so it doesn't get away! Maybe your baby is highly reactive! If you know, you can find out what other elements to keep your baby away from.

This lesson is packed full with opportunities to practice science skills such as developing models to describe unobservable mechanisms (SP2) and communication of scientific and technical information in writing and through oral presentations after critically reading scientific texts to obtain scientific information to describe evidence about the natural and designed worlds (SP8).

As students research an element of their choice, they synthesize information related to three performance expectations within the Matter and Its Interactions Core Disciplinary Idea:

MS-PS1-1: Develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures.  

MS-PS1-2:Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.

MS-PS1-3:Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.

Through the practice of obtaining, evaluating and communicating information about an element, students also meet several Common Core English Language Arts Standards for Writing:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

This project is a research-based inquiry investigation including multiple lessons taught over the span of 1 to 2 weeks. To help manage the magnitude of this project, you will find the project split into 3 parts.

  • Part 1 includes the ENGAGE and EXPLORE components of the lesson; Time: 4 or more 50-minute lessons or equivalent block periods.
  • Part 2 (this lesson) includes the EXPLAIN components of this lesson; Time: 3-5 50-minute lessons or equivalent block periods.
  • Part 3 includes the EXTEND and EVALUATE components of the lesson; Time: 1-2 50-minute lessons or equivalent block periods.


150 minutes

The EXPLAIN stage provides students with an opportunity to communicate what they have learned so far and figure out what it means. During this stage of the lesson, students create their final project, which involves several steps:

1) Create the Digital Presentation of Information:

Ultimately, after the students use their completed notes to create six sides for their final baby block, the results will look something like these examples:

Platinum Student Example - Side 1

Platinum Student Example - Side 2

Platinum Student Example - Side 3

Platinum Student Example - Side 4 

Platinum Student Example - Side 5

Platinum Student Example - Side 6

Students need support creating creative, effective and neat final digital documents that show what they've learned. In order to provide different levels of support, students choose either the Adopt an Element Project Scaffolded Template or the less structured Adopt an Element Project Blank Template.

For students who want to strike out on their own, students can work without a template. An important part of the creation process is that students use the checklist on the Adopt an Element Project Student Instructions to assess whether they are meeting the project requirements.

Also important to the process is the support of students with technical writing. Two of the baby block sides (side 4 and side 5) are in paragraph form. To help students with technical writing, instruction around writing science content is imperative: Writing Arguments from Evidence. Also, a graphic organizer like this one: Adopt an Element Project Paragraph Graphic Organizer can help students write coherent technical paragraphs.

2) Build the Baby Block:

Students create a three-dimensional baby block using a cube net template such as this:


The template is as large as can fit on a regular piece of poster board (28" x 22"). The net measures approximately 18 centimeters on each side and will fit on the poster board diagonally. Students work in pairs to hold the template firmly while tracing the pattern onto the poster. Students then cut, fold with ruler, and glue. the tabs. Glue and patience seems to work better and looks nicer than tape. Students need to use firm pressure for a minute to get the sides to really stick. This video shows the building process:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

After students complete their baby blocks, they cut out and glue on each of the six sides of their research. If baby blocks are to be hung up, students need to hole-punch a hole in one corner and affix a string.