Activity Introduction

Quick summary: After examining how the death of stars created new, heavier elements in the growing universe, students will independently investigate a chemical element from the Periodic Table of Elements and explain its importance in our world. 

Subjects: Science, English, HASS

Year Level: Primary

Topics: The Big Bang, History

Teaching Time: 60 mins.

Unit: This is Lesson 6 of the Big History – Primary unit.

For more information on how to teach this unit and develop a transdisciplinary approach to your teaching, check out our Big History PD.

This Big History Program for primary school students is based on the Big History Project as adapted by Marilyn Ahearn and Marisa Colonna. Click here to view these lessons in their far more expansive original format.

Resources Required:

You may decide on different entrances to this story in your classroom. That is perfectly reasonable – as long as we tell the whole emerging story of our universe, as we know it! Think of the story as a chapter book where children need to hear the whole story to make sense of it – if we hear fragments from various chapters we are left with fragments once more!

Therefore, we strongly recommend you teach this unit as a whole from start to finish. You can find all of the Presentation Slides, Teacher Worksheets, Student Worksheets, and other required resources for download in this folder.

Alternatively, the resources for this lesson as a standalone are:

21st-Century Skills:

CommunicatingCreative ThinkingCritical ThinkingDigital LiteracyGlobal Citizenship  

Level of teacher scaffolding: High – Facilitate explicit teaching and guide students through independent work. 

Australian Curriculum Mapping

“It is one of the many odd features of modern society, that despite having access to more information than any earlier society, those in modern educational systems … teach about (our) origins in disconnected fragments. We seem incapable of offering a unified account of how things came to be, the way they are.” – David Christian, 2011, Maps of time: an introduction to big history

We encourage you to teach Big History both through and in-between disciplines (transdisciplinary)

The story of our universe needs the expertise of academic disciplines to be made sense of and explained in full. The best evidence from a wide range of disciplines presents the current best answers to our big questions.

As primary educators, this provides us in turn with the opportunity to engage with this story from a particular perspective that your grade and/or school currently requires. This means that it is not seen as an add-on/extracurricular activity that our overloaded timetables cannot cope with. English, Science, & Creative Arts syllabuses easily incorporate Big History, alongside the skills and concepts from History and Geography. Maths, too, can be incorporated in the discovery of large numbers and measuring the large scales of time and space!

Syllabus outcomes: EN2-1A, EN2-2A, EN2-4A, EN2-6B, EN2-7B, EN2-8B, EN2-10C, EN2-11D, EN2-12E, ST2-9PW-ST, ST2-1WS-S, ST2-SPW-ST, HT2-5, VAS2-1,VAS2.4

General capabilities: Literacy, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Capability, Critical and Creative Thinking.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability.

Big History embraces a curriculum that emphasises nature, economics, society and our own wellbeing to empower children to see our world view from the context of a unified universe story, not merely from within our local cultural worldview! 

Learning our emerging and unified 13.82 billion years of Big History helps us to understand the changing nature and fragility of our complex environment. We can use that knowledge of the past, present and future to investigate future possibilities for sustainable ways to meet our own needs and the needs of future generations.

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


Teacher Worksheet

Lesson 6: What are elements?

Learning intentions: Students will...

  • … begin to understand why stars and chemical elements are so important to our world.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • … explain how the death of stars resulted in the creation of new heavier elements
  • … explain why the new heavier elements are so important in our world

Teacher Content Information:

Stars and Elements. By 200 million years after the Big Bang, the universe had become a very dark and cold place. Then things started to change.

First, galaxies and nebulae formed. These were the earliest structures in the universe. Then stars - 'hot spots' of light and energy - emerged from these clouds of dust and gas. Why did they form and how did they change everything?

Stars, the first complex, stable entities in the universe, have the capacity to generate energy for millions, even billions of years. The first stars, which passed through their entire life cycles relatively quickly, produced many of the

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Student Worksheet

Student Worksheet - Lesson 6

Thought Starter: Where do we see elements in our world?

Step 1. Use the periodic table of elements to choose an element.

  • Periodic Table and the Elements - To use this site, scroll down the page until you find the heading List of Elements. Click on an element to find information.
  • Periodic table - To use this site, click on an element to see its history, description, benefits, sources and biological rating.

If you're not feeling confident, choose an element you've heard of before, such as gold or sodium.

If you're looking for something a little more challenging, try lead, mercury, radium, potassium, or arsenic. 

Step 2. Answer the questions below:

•  What is the common name of this element?

•  What is the atomic number of this element?

•  What is the chemical symbol of this element?

•  Is this element found as a solid, liquid or gas in its natural state (and is it a metal)?

•  Where can this element be found in the world?



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