Amy Long

Sends her students on a "date" with the periodic table

2016 Stem Scholar
Opelika, AL Sanford Middle School

Amy’s Big Idea: Amy has a unique way of teaching the periodic table of elements. She sends her students on a date with it.

“On the first day, we meet the table by completing riddles whose answers are element names. On the second day, we get its number by learning what the atomic mass, atomic number, periods, and groups mean. On the third day, the periodic table sends us a selfie we use to label and color a black and white version of the table. Students label the three regions, list which elements are solid, liquid, or gas at room temperature, and we learn the specific names for some of the groups such as the Halogens, Noble Gases, and Transition Metals.

“This all leads to us going on our first date with the table. The kids dress up in nice clothes, we decorate with balloons, streamers, candles, etc. and we go through the steps you would on a date. We “meet” Dmitri Mendeleev, the father of the periodic table, by watching a video on his life and how he created the table. We go to dinner; I buy doughnuts and M&Ms candy, and then the students choose an element and use the food to make a Bohr diagram for that element before they eat the doughnut.

“While they are eating, I go through a Powerpoint with songs about the periodic table. There are periodic table jokes to tell when the conversation gets awkward, as it sometimes does on a first date. Finally, I play two or three slow songs and the students dance. I have had students clutch the textbook with the periodic table to their chest as they danced, which is hilarious.

“At the end of the week, they have “fallen in love” with the periodic table and I have taken something that they thought would be boring and impossible and made it fun and something they can relate to.”

Interesting Facts:  Amy established her school’s first-ever STEM event which gave 630 middle school students hands-on experience working with over 18 professionals in STEM fields. Read more.

In her own words: "I always struggled with Chemistry in high school and college because I had a very weak background in it and am committed to providing my students with a solid foundation on which to build their chemistry knowledge and I try to make it as fun as I possibly can."
On being a 2016 STEM Scholar: “The immersiveness of the program – being around people who are passionate, who are getting better and who have commonalities with you – was a great experience.”