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Subject: "Elements Necessary for Life" Project

This project was designed for general level chemistry students as a way to help them see the importance of many of the elements in their lives. Each student is assigned one of many different elements that are necessary for the health and well being of the human body. They then have to research the effects that their element has on the body, and discover which foods are rich in that particular element. I assign elements to my students by placing the name of each element listed below on a small piece of paper. These pieces of paper are then placed into a large beaker and I allow the students to pick their element out of the beaker. Many of the students seem to really enjoy the project, and the variety of presentation options helps the project end with the same excitement that it had upon beginning. In the past we've enjoyed fresh cooked liver and onions during 1st bell and chocolate cake after lunch. I make it a point to try all of the food my students bring in for the class.

Since much information regarding nutrition is constantly changing, it is important to use up-to-date books as well as the internet (this has proven to be the most up-to-date resource available) for research. I do allow class time to do some of the research because all of my students do not have internet access at home, and our school library doesn't have many current nutrition books. Inevitably most students will have to make a trip to the local branch library to successfully complete this project. With this in mind, I usually schedule three days of research in the school library (ours has several PC's with internet access), usually a Wednesday through Friday, followed by several days of presentation to classmates beginning on the following Monday, to provide students time to visit the main public library over the weekend.

The following is a list of elements I assign to the students and have had success with in the past: F, Na, Mg, P, S, Cl, K, Ca, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Se, Mo, Cd, Sn, and I. Several additional elements have proven to be harder but not impossible to successfully reasearch: Li, Si, V, Br, and Te. Even though the elements H, C, O, and N make up a majority of the molecules of the body, I do not assign them due to the fact that they are not minerals and could be found in all (or nearly all) consumable food items.

I hope this project proves useful to you, and that you enjoy it as much as I do. If you have any comments or suggestions about this project please feel free to contact me.

The idea for this project was sparked by a special topic article in each of the following two textbooks:

1) Chemistry: Concepts and Applications, Phillips, Strozak, and Wistrom, by Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, pg. 128.

2) Chemistry: Visualizing Matter, Tocci and Viehland, by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc., pg. 80.

Michael Geyer (m_geyer@thecatalyst.org)
Deer Park High School, Cincinnati, OH

With assistance from:
Cynthia Bedell (BEDELLCHEM@aol.com)

This project has been used by many other teachers and was presented at ChemEd by Kelly Reaves of Homewood High School, Homewood, AL. Below is a list of links where this project can be found outside of The Catalyst.