Des Hylton, BHP Teacher
Queensland, Australia

The Lesson 3.1 activity Is It in There? asks students to identify whether certain elements are found in a list of everyday objects – ranging from cell phones to blueberry muffins. It’s a good one for introducing students to the prevalence of chemical elements in our everyday lives.


I know social studies teachers sometimes worry about their knowledge of chemistry, or the fact that students might struggle to find all the answers. I like to think that the primary objective of this activity is not to complete the worksheet, but to develop more complex skills and connections, like:

  • Developing information search skills and reflecting on search strategies that worked best (for example, coupling of keywords).
  • Building background knowledge (finding out other interesting facts about uses of elements)
  • Investigating the complexity of many elements and their multiple uses
  • Having the conversation about what they found and what surprised them

I extended this activity by giving kids sticky notes to label the elements found in items around our classroom. Students loved this and did the research themselves. They identified elements in items that even I wasn’t aware of –and that’s with a degree in chemistry! Even my laptop wasn’t spared!  😉

Elements in a laptop. Photo by Des Hylton.

About the author: Des Hylton started teaching BHP in 2013. He currently teaches the course at an independent preparatory-through-twelfth-grade school in Australia, but he’s actually a science teacher by trade. At his school, BHP is taught over two years to year 7 and 8 students as part of the history/geography curriculum. Des teaches the class in five 50-minute sessions per two weeks. His average class size is 28.


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