Smartphone and the periodic table (LS-IT-40)

Chemistry is considered a difficult subject by the majority of students, due to the use of a specific language and topics covered, that apparently are not related to everyday problems. At the same time, Geosciences are often considered not very interesting by students. In particular, the mineral classification represents a big issue for them.

How to engage students in Chemistry and Earth Sciences?

I tried to face up this problem with my learning scenario that focused on the Periodic Table and mineral classification. It is suitable for students aged 15-16, but it can also be tested with older ones. Teachers of different disciplines (Biology, Chemistry, Law, Geography, Italian, English) can collaborate to its realization. The main aims are:

  • Improving students’ knowledge of the Periodic Table and its history;
  • Becoming aware of environmental and social impacts related to extraction of elements used to build smartphones.

Which chemical elements in your smartphone?

The learning model chosen is inquiry-based Science Education (IBSE). Firstly, students were involved in a game: Which chemical elements in your smartphone? The teacher drew, on a large sheet, the different parts of a mobile phone and prepared adhesive cards with all the elements present in the mobile. Students in groups had to complete the scheme with the correct elements. Secondly, they were asked to prepare cards and billboards for each element, using the resources available in Europeana. The cards had to include information about the mines where the elements’ minerals came from. Finally, students locate their cards on a World map indicating the mine distribution and discuss their environmental impact.

Afterward, the scenario will be completed with an interdisciplinary work in collaboration with teachers of literature and law subjects to explore the relationship between cell phones and wars and the need to recycle electronic waste.

The implementation of this activity was realized in collaboration with Paola Cazzani from Istituto A. Bassi, a technical school in Lodi (Italy). Meanwhile, after the scenario implementation, we decided to use the material designed by students for an exhibition that will be set up in school rooms and in a Science Fair (Scienza Under 18 ).

Would you like to know more about this learning scenario? You can download it below:

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CC BY 4.0 – The featured image used to illustrate this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution. Therefore, it can be found in the Wellcome Collection. It has been resized and labeled to illustrate this article. To find the original image click here.

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