Periodic Videos

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Aug
  • 09
  • 2008

Can’t afford to keep your lab stocked with all the elements? Want to create stories about the elements that your students will remember? The Periodic Table of Videos will surely come in handy. YouTube blocked? No worries, they have a non-YouTube version of the site.

If you don’t teach science, stick around. This resource also provides a way to look at our instruction. When it’s done well (hydrogen), it looks easy and obvious. When it’s not (zinc), it looks boring and tired. The home page promises updates with “new stories, better samples and bigger experiments.” I can’t wait. Like most of our instruction, these videos need three things, in this order: more editing, more humor, more explosions.


“Match on a stick to hydrogen: big bang coming.” The video for hydrogen is great. The cuts are smart, the lead-in is properly delayed, the info compelling, and the payoff superb. While Dr. Poliakoff rocks the professor look like no one’s business, there’s plenty of talking-head info that can be cut or otherwise conveyed. Even keeping the audio while showing video of element attributes would work. But it’s harder to remove your ideas than to add them. Of the fifteen or so videos I’ve watched, hydrogen is the best by far. None of the others come close.


I understand that the intended audience for these videos is not high school. That said, more humor would make them infinitely more watchable because when their humor does surface it’s great viewing. Again, the hydrogen video marries the talking head to the antics of the two scientists in the lab losing the hydrogen-filled balloon to the ceiling and figuring out how to bring it down. That adds levity to the situation and makes it easier to take in the rather dry info that is often an important part of any lesson.


Once again, the hydrogen video hits home on this mark. “Big bang coming.” Indeed! I understand, maybe not all elements do something involving an explosion, but that’s really a metaphor at this point. The explosion is the payoff for sitting through a four-minute video dedicated to an element. Each element needs to be shown involved in some kind of experiment that’s interesting, curious, explosive, funny, cool, or some other compelling adjective. That’s the story your students will remember. I may not remember what boron is, but I will remember that it burns green (and will drop that info over a romantic Duraflame evening sometime).

Science teachers, here’s to you.

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