STANDARDS

NGSS: Core Idea: PS1.A

CCSS: Literacy in Science: 7

TEKS: 6.5A, 8.5C, C.5B, I.6D

Name That Element!

Which element is a friend of lifeguards, an enemy of colds, and a protector of bridges? Use these five clues and the periodic table to find out.

OH, SO POPULAR

OH, SO POPULAR

©HERMAN EISENBEISS/SCIENCE SOURCE

In its pure form, the mystery element is a pale, bluish-gray metal. It’s the fourth most commonly used metal in the world and the 24th most abundant element in Earth’s crust, or outermost layer. In nature, this transition metal chemically combines with one or more elements to form compounds. This metal is extracted from mineral-bearing rocks called ores. It is also found in plants, animals, and people. It’s an essential mineral for growth and development.

Got it already? Score 100 points. If not, read clue 2.

The mystery element’s pure form is a pale, bluish-gray metal. It’s the fourth most commonly used metal in the world. It’s also the 24th most common element in Earth’s crust, or outer layer. This element is a transition metal. In nature, it chemically combines with other elements to form compounds. Rocks called ores contain minerals. This metal is removed from ores. It’s also found in plants, animals, and humans. It’s an important mineral for our growth and development.

Got it already? Score 100 points. If not, read clue 2.

RUB IT ON

RUB IT ON

PHOTODISC/GETTY IMAGES

Why do some lifeguards sport a white streak on their nose? They slather on sunscreen containing a compound of oxygen (O) and the mystery element. Like a bunch of tiny mirrors, this compound’s particles reflect the sun’s invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays away from the skin. The compound protects against both types of UV light—UVA and UVB—that damage skin. Newer versions of this sunscreen are invisible, giving the same protection—minus the white nose!

Nabbed the answer? Score 80 points. Still guessing? Go to the next clue.

Some lifeguards have a white streak on their nose. Why? They’ve rubbed on a sunscreen. It contains a compound of oxygen (O) and the mystery element. This compound’s particles work like many tiny mirrors. They reflect the sun’s invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays away from the skin. Two types of UV light damage skin. The compound protects against both UVA and UVB rays.  Newer versions of this sunscreen look clear. They give the same protection without the white nose!

Nabbed the answer? Score 80 points. Still guessing? Go to the next clue.

PLAY IT AGAIN

PLAY IT AGAIN

ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES

How do you make the metal alloy brass? Just add the mystery element to molten copper (Cu), which is in the same period (row) on the periodic table. “It is like adding sugar to water. You stir it in, and the [mystery element] dissolves,” says Frank Goodwin, a metallurgist at an organization that researches the mystery element. Discarded brass items usually get recycled. A brass item you own may have been recycled from a brass bed frame, which was recycled from a brass propeller, and so on.

Game over already? Score 60 points. Still playing? Check out clue 4.

Brass is a metal alloy. How do you make it? Just add the mystery element to molten copper (Cu). Both elements are in the same period (row) on the periodic table. “It is like adding sugar to water. You stir it in, and the [mystery element] dissolves,” says Frank Goodwin. He’s a metallurgist at an organization that studies the mystery element. Unwanted brass items usually get recycled. Maybe you own a brass item. It may have been recycled from a brass bed frame. That frame may have been recycled from a brass propeller, and so on.

Game over already? Score 60 points. Still playing? Check out clue 4.

COLD STOPPER

COLD STOPPER

©ALFRED PASIEKA/PHOTOLIBRARY/GETTY IMAGES

Studies show that lozenges containing this element reduce a common cold’s symptoms. A cold virus can’t replicate on its own. Instead, the tiny, nonliving particle invades healthy cells that line your airway and forces the cells to make copies of the virus. Researchers think that one way the mystery element reduces cold symptoms is by binding to proteins on the virus’s surface. This interferes with the virus’s ability to invade cells, so the virus can’t multiply.

Score 40 points if you named the element with the help of four clues. Not yet? Try the last one.

Some medicine tablets contain this element. Studies show that they reduce a common cold’s symptoms. A cold virus can’t multiply on its own. So the tiny, nonliving particle invades healthy cells along your airway. Then it forces them to make copies of the virus. How does the mystery element reduce cold symptoms? For one thing, researchers think it binds to proteins on the virus’s surface. This prevents the virus from invading cells. Then it can’t multiply.

Score 40 points if you named the element with the help of four clues. Not yet? Try the last one.

RUST BUSTER

RUST BUSTER

ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES

Engineers use steel to build bridges and to make the cars that cross them. But when steel reacts with water, the metal rusts. To prevent this, steel is galvanized, or dipped in a bath of the molten mystery element, which has 30 protons. This coating keeps water out. Even if the coating is scratched, the exposed steel won’t rust. Instead, the nearby coating slowly breaks down first so the steel remains intact. “[The mystery element] actually sacrifices itself to protect steel,” says Goodwin.

Guessed the element? Score 20 points. Then go on.

Engineers use steel to make bridges and the cars that cross them. But when steel reacts with water, the metal rusts. To prevent this, steel is galvanized. It’s dipped into the molten mystery element, which has 30 protons. This coating keeps water out. What if the coating is scratched? The uncovered steel won’t rust. Instead, the nearby coating breaks down first, and the steel remains sound. “[The mystery element] actually sacrifices itself to protect steel,” says Goodwin.

Guessed the element? Score 20 points. Otherwise, go on.

PERIODIC TABLE

The periodic table is a systematic way to organize Earth’s elements—substances that each consist of only one kind of atom. Today, there are 118 known chemical elements.

Elements on the periodic table are arranged by their atomic numbers in ascending order. Hydrogen (H), for example, has an atomic number of 1 and is the lightest known natural element.

Scientists have created elements with atomic numbers greater than 92, but they don’t exist naturally.

The periodic table is a systematic way to organize Earth’s elements—substances that each consist of only one kind of atom. Today, there are 118 known chemical elements.

Elements on the periodic table are arranged by their atomic numbers in ascending order. Hydrogen (H), for example, has an atomic number of 1 and is the lightest known natural element.

Scientists have created elements with atomic numbers greater than 92, but they don’t exist naturally.

ANATOMY OF AN ELEMENT

ATOMIC NUMBER equals the number of protons (positively charged particles) in an atom’s nucleus, or center. Each element consists of atoms that all have the same number of protons, and so each has a unique atomic number. In a neutral atom, the number of protons and the number of electrons (negatively charged particles) are equal.

ATOMIC MASS is the average mass of the naturally occurring isotopes of an element. Isotopes are atoms of an element with the same number of protons but with different numbers of neutrons.

ATOMIC NUMBER equals the number of protons (positively charged particles) in an atom’s nucleus, or center. Each element consists of atoms that all have the same number of protons, and so each has a unique atomic number. In a neutral atom, the number of protons and the number of electrons (negatively charged particles) are equal.

ATOMIC MASS is the average mass of the naturally occurring isotopes of an element. Isotopes are atoms of an element with the same number of protons but with different numbers of neutrons.

ATOMIC STRUCTURE

The human body contains 2 to 4 grams (0.07 to 0.14 ounces) of the mystery element. Most of it is in the brain, muscles, kidneys, liver, and eyes.

The human body contains 2 to 4 grams (0.07 to 0.14 ounces) of the mystery element. Most of it is in the brain, muscles, kidneys, liver, and eyes.

TEST YOUR CHEMISTRY IQ

Use the periodic table and what you learned about the mystery element to answer the following questions.


1. When two metals are mixed together, the product is called a(n) ___.

A. ore

B. alloy

C. transition metal

D. galvanized metal


2. Which gas is NOT found in the same period as lithium (Li)?

A. chlorine (Cl)

B. neon (Ne)

C. oxygen (O)

D. fluorine (F)


3. What is the atomic number of zirconium (Zr)?

A. 11

B. 32

C. 40

D. 66


4. Which of the following elements is a nonmetal?

A. magnesium (Mg)

B. nickel (Ni)

C. beryllium (Be)

D. bromine (Br)


5. What is a compound?

A. two or more elements chemically combined

B. the smallest unit of matter

C. two or more elements found in the same period

D. a negatively charged particle

TEST YOUR CHEMISTRY IQ

Use the periodic table and what you learned about the mystery element to answer the following questions.


1. When two metals are mixed together, the product is called a(n) ___.

A. ore

B. alloy

C. transition metal

D. galvanized metal


2. Which gas is NOT found in the same period as lithium (Li)?

A. chlorine (Cl)

B. neon (Ne)

C. oxygen (O)

D. fluorine (F)


3. What is the atomic number of zirconium (Zr)?

A. 11

B. 32

C. 40

D. 66


4. Which of the following elements is a nonmetal?

A. magnesium (Mg)

B. nickel (Ni)

C. beryllium (Be)

D. bromine (Br)


5. What is a compound?

A. two or more elements chemically combined

B. the smallest unit of matter

C. two or more elements found in the same period

D. a negatively charged particle

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Skills Sheets (2)
Lesson Plan (2)
Lesson Plan (2)