An Elementary Game

    Kids, did you ever think about building your own collection of chemical elements? This can be a fun science project and a great "Show & Tell" classroom session. Look back at our previous article on the periodic table (June 1998) and also at for great sites that discuss the more than 100 pure elements that exist in the universe. These sites will tell you the differences between elements, compounds (two or more elements bound together), and mixtures (two or more compounds). 

    Please note:  All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision.

    Many of the elements are difficult to find in their pure state, but quite a few are fairly easy to get a hold of. A list of suggestions along with possible sources is provided below. How many of these elements can you find? Can you find any others on the periodic table that we haven't thought of here?

    • aluminum ­ wire or foil
    • carbon ­ pencil (graphite), diamond
    • chromium ­ chrome-plated metal
    • copper ­ electrical wire or an old penny
    • gold ­ 24K gold jewelry
    • helium ­ party balloon
    • iron ­ masonry nail
    • lead ­ fishing line weight
    • nickel ­ coin
    • silicon ­ solar cell
    • silver ­ jewelry, real silverware, backs of mirrors
    • sulfur - matches
    • tin ­ metal sheets at hobby shops, tin cups
    • zinc ­ metal strips from hobby shops
    • platinum ­ jewelry
    • neon or argon ­ gas in neon signs

    There are others that are a bit hazardous and so you should only let an adult partner handle them for you. Examples are mercury if kept contained in a thermometer or thermostat switch, and tungsten filaments if left in unbroken light bulbs.


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    October 2001


    References: T. D. Burns, Chemistry Activity Book, 1995, Woodkrafter Kits, Inc., Yarmouth, ME 04096-0808.