Big History - What Are Elements?

Big History - What Are Elements?

Lesson 7 of 13 in this unit

  • Primary
  • Year 3 - 6
  • Science
  • Earth and Space
  • Human Endeavour
  • ...

Lesson 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. 

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.

Lesson guides and printables

Teacher Lesson Plan
Student Worksheet
Teacher Content Info

Lesson details

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 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 discovering 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, EN2-12EST2-9PW-ST, ST2-1WS-S, ST2-SPW-STT2-9PW-STHT2-5GE2-2, GE2-4VAS2-1,VAS2.4

General capabilities: LiteracyDigital LiteracyCritical 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.

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!

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

  • a device capable of presenting a video to the class
  • A4 paper – white – one per student
  • art Supplies – coloured pencils and textas
  • Big History Passport
  • Big History Threshold 3 Reflection Page – one per student
  • Illustrated Periodic Table of the Elements PDF – This is a great visual resource that you might like to enlarge to A3 size and print to display in your classroom. You can find the image file of the same Table here.
  • Presentation Slides
  • Student Worksheet – one per student
  • Threshold Cards – Specifically the cards for Thresholds 1, 2 & 3

21st century skills

  • communication
  • creativity
  • critical thinking
  • digital literacy
  • global citizenship.

Additional info

This is an original Cool.org lesson.

This Big History Program for primary school students is based on the Big History Project as adapted by Marilyn Ahearn and Marisa Colonna. 

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