Adopt an Element Research Project (Part 3/3)

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


The EXTEND stage allows students to apply new knowledge to a novel situation. The novel situation in this case is for students to choose a creative way to demonstrate their new learning about their element. A few options include:

1) Create a 3-dimensional model of the element. For examples of what the final product looks like: 3-D Atomic Model Extension - Student Example 1, 3-D Atomic Model Extension - Student Example 2 or 3-D Atomic Model Extension - Student Example 3.

2) Choose a lesser-known element. This is a natural extension for the curious-minded as it is more difficult to find information during the research process and the information tends to be more technical due to the unknown nature of these elements.

3) Replace any side of the cube with a more in-depth topic of your choice.

4) Make a second cube or pyramid showing additional information about the element.

5) Create a Facebook page for the element. For templates: Facebook Template 1 or Facebook Template 2.

6) Create a baby announcement for the element. For examples: Neon Baby Announcement or Potassium Baby Announcement.

7) Create a Web-site for your element including 10 tips for taking care of your element. An example: Neptunium Extension 


50 minutes

The EVALUATION stage is for both students and teachers to determine how much learning and understanding has taken place. There are two assessment activities associated with this project:

1) Students use the Adopt an Element Project Rubric to progress through a self assessment exercise for their work. Using the rubric on their Adopt an Element Project Student Instructions, students evaluate their projects for Written Expression; Scientific Understanding; Mechanics, Appearance and Creativity; and Timeliness and Completion. Using this rubric as a guide, students receive feedback from the teacher as well.

2) Students also explain their new-found understanding of their element verbally. Using Google Voice and the Adopt an Element Project Verbal Assessment, students prepare a script to respond to this prompt: 

“Hello 6th Grader, tell me about what you learned about your adopted element during the project”. Your response should be between 30 seconds and 1 minute long.

Student Response

Providing students with an option for verbal expression is an excellent strategy for evaluation of learning:

For more on this topic, this section's reflection is helpful: Verbal Assessment - Google Voice Makes it Easy.