Activity Introduction

mobile phones for recycling heroQuick summary: Students use an online periodic table to investigate and compare the atomic structure of metals, some of their properties, how they are used and their abundance as a resource. Students organise their information using the lotus diagram thinking tool. Then students create an ‘adopt an element’ poster that demonstrates the properties and uses of aluminium.  

NRW Logo 2012-10-00 LgeThis lesson has been developed as part of the Schools Recycle Right Challenge for Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week. Register your lesson or other activities so they can be counted towards the national achievement and to receive other free support materials.


Learning goals for this activity include:

  • Students apply the periodic table to learning about metals showing that elements that are grouped together have similar properties.
  • They look for patterns about the relative abundance of metals and their application as a resource. 

Australian Curriculum content descriptions:

Year 10 Science: 

  • The atomic structure and properties of elements are used to organise them in the Periodic Table (ACSSU186)
  • Scientific understanding, including models and theories, are contestable and are refined over time through a process of review by the scientific community (ACSHE191)
  • Use knowledge of scientific concepts to draw conclusions that are consistent with evidence (ACSIS204)

Time needed: 50 min

Resources needed: Access to the internet.

Digital technology opportunities: Use of interactive periodic table such as

There’s an app for that: There are apps for the periodic table for both android and Apple. A good free app is ‘Periodic Table of the Elements’

Assumed prior learning: The names of common metals such as iron, aluminium, gold, silver. Some of the basic properties of metals. The concept of an element. Atoms have shells of electrons and the outer shell has a significant influence on the atoms’ properties.  

Key words: Element, metal, periodic table, electron configuration, isotope, atomic number.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum. 

These Planet Ark resources were developed by Cool Australia with funding from the Alcoa Foundation.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher preparation

Overarching learning goals: Use the periodic table to gain a deep understanding of the chemical properties of some metals.

Teacher content information:

The periodic table was first devised by Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869. It was a way of grouping elements to show common chemical properties, atomic number and electron configurations. The electronic configuration of the outer shell has a large influence over the chemical properties. The first table was so clever that Mendeleev was able to predict what the properties of the undiscovered element would be. All elements from atomic number 1 to 98 exist naturally. The higher elements are created with nuclear experiments.

The atomic number of each element represents the number of protons it contains in its nucleus.

Each horizontal row of the table is called a period. There is a new row for each shell of electrons around the element. The element on the far left column has one electron in the outer shell, while the element

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Student Worksheet

Thought starters: What might people have done before there was chemistry and an understanding of elements?

Step 1: Exploring the periodic table

Go to a website with the periodic table. An example is

As a class look at a periodic table and find/observe the following:

  1. The atomic number of an element. What does the atomic number mean? (Number of protons in the nucleus.)
  2. The unique letter symbol given to each element.
  3. The atomic numbers go from left to right on the table.
  4. The number of free electrons in the outer shell of the element progress from 1 on the left column and adds one further electron until on the far right column of the shell is full.
  5. The arrangement of elements into blocks shows that these elements have chemical properties in common. 

Step 2: Investigating three metal elements

You will investigate aluminium and two other elements of their choice (could be materials used in other items of packaging and manufacturing). Your teach

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