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6-12 > Physical Science

Science Hits
Science Hits
Grade Level  6-8, 9-12
Subject Area  physical science

Curriculum Focus
  music, language arts, chemistry
Duration  1-2 class periods

  Students will listen to a recording of “The Elements” by Tom Lehrer (1960) and write their own song for recalling scientific information.

  A wide variety of information sources including Internet sites, magazines and books, and electronic encyclopedia’s and databases, and writing tools.

  1. Listening to “The Elements”
Have your students listen to “The Elements” by Tom Lehrer and answer the questions that follow.

The Elements
Sound28.8 kbps
Sound56 kbps
(running time: 1:23)

Text Version

To hear this audio file, you need the RealPlayer plug-in.Downloadit now.

How many elements were known at the time the song was written?

Are the elements in the song grouped in any particular order? If so, what?

What repeating patterns did the songwriter use? How many elements have been discovered since? And why is there some debate over the number of elements in the periodic table?

  2. Writing Science Hits
Direct students to use “The Elements” as a guide to writing their own science song. Whether they select a tune and then try to fit the words to it or start with the lyrics, encourage them to look for patterns of repetition, and to be creative. They may wish to record the song and play it back to further assist their memories. Although the suggested topics below are chemistry related, the possibilities are endless.

The Elements Revisited
This could include newer elements, their properties, atomic number, or symbols.

Names and Discoveries in the History of Chemistry
Here are some examples:
    Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)—studied electricity and
    invented the lightning rod.

    Jons Jakob Berzelius (1779-1848)—discovered several
    elements, developed the modern system of symbols in
    chemistry, and carefully measured the atomic weights of
    several elements.

    Dmitri Mendeleev (1834-1907)—arranged and classified the
    elements into what is now called the periodic table.

Electron Shells in Atoms
Here are some examples:
    He   1s2
    Ne   1s22s22p6
    Ar   1s22s22p63s23p6

Do you see a pattern developing?

Ionic Compounds
A few examples include:
    Na+Cl-   (sodium chloride)
    Fe2+O2-   (ferrous oxide)

Molecular Compounds
Here are some examples:
    NF3  nitrogentrifluoride
    N2O4  dinitrogentetroxide
    SO3  sulfurtrioxide

The letters of the Greek alphabet

Other Science Themes
Bacteria—the parts of the cell and how each functions (e.g., cell membrane, endoplasmic reticulum, golgi bodies, vacuoles, ribosomes, lysosomes, mitochondria, cilia, flagella, centrioles)

The Objects of the Solar System—the planets, asteroids, and moons.

  Invite students to create music videos or perform their songs in front of an audience. When the presentations are complete, have students discuss what makes a good song.

  “The Elements” appears courtesy of Tom Lehrer. It’s available on the Rhino Records CD,Songs and More Songs by Tom Lehrer.