Digging Up the Periodic Table

Featured image: “shovelling dirt” by ☻☺ is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A previous post gave a glimpse into the range of information found on the periodic table. One may wonder what these abstract elements look like physically and where we find them. The following activity involves both examining a Google My Map and then completing a Google Forms. The MyMap is intended to give students a glimpse into some of the sources of lithium and aluminum (bauxite) , elements with a link to our daily lives. The Forms allows for student assessment but permits a bit of freedom through a choice of which element to focus on.

This activity is designed for students with a general understanding of the periodic table and geography. Knowledge of mining operations is recommended but not necessary.


  1. View the Google MyMap on Lithium and Aluminum producers, either by interacting with the map on this page or by clicking HERE. Click on each location for a bit of information and some photos.

2. Complete the Google Forms activity/quiz on Lithium and Aluminum by clicking HERE. Start by choosing which element you would like to start with. You may do one or the other or both if you wish by the end of the Form. There will be resources provided for you to explore and learn from. After viewing these, answer the questions associated with your chosen element.

For teachers:

The Google MyMaps and the Google Forms both draw from a variety of online resources (which are listed below). You may want to double check them before doing the Forms with your students. The Forms requires students read a variety of source material, which may take a long time, maybe even the entire period or more, so keep that in mind.

Also, you can click Here to view the entire Google Forms.

The resources used:

On lithium mining (in China): http://www.lithiummine.com/lithium-mining-in-china

More on lithium mining in China: https://news.metal.com/newscontent/100911546/decryption-of-chinas-four-major-salt-lakes-five-major-refining-technical-routes-everything-about-lithium-extraction-from-the-salt-lake-is-here/

Lithium Mining (in the USA) (1955): https://pubs.usgs.gov/bul/1027g/report.pdf

News article on lithium mining in Nevada: https://www.hcn.org/issues/53.3/indigenous-affairs-mining-nevada-lithium-mine-kicks-off-a-new-era-of-western-extraction

On lithium in Portugal: https://www.savannahresources.com/assets/mina-do-barroso/

Some general information on lithium mining: https://www.volkswagenag.com/en/news/stories/2020/03/lithium-mining-what-you-should-know-about-the-contentious-issue.html

Some general information + a physics aspect: http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2010/ph240/eason2/

Top lithium producing countries: https://www.nsenergybusiness.com/features/top-lithium-producing-countries/

On Spodumene: https://www.mindat.org/min-3733.html

On Petalite: https://www.mindat.org/min-3733.html

On Lepidolite: https://www.mindat.org/min-2380.html

More on Lepidolite: https://geology.com/minerals/lepidolite.shtml

General overview of aluminum: https://www.aluminum.org/aluminum-advantage/aluminum-101

General information on Aluminum: https://www.rsc.org/periodic-table/element/13/aluminium

Where bauxite is mined: https://www.mining-technology.com/features/featurebauxite-behemoths-the-worlds-biggest-bauxite-producers-4274090/

On bauxite: https://geology.com/minerals/bauxite.shtml

On bauxite and alumina: https://www.usgs.gov/centers/nmic/bauxite-and-alumina-statistics-and-information?qt-science_support_page_related_con=0#qt-science_support_page_related_con

For fun:

On the economic impact of lithium: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/lithium-batteries-environment-impact

3 Replies to “Digging Up the Periodic Table”

  1. Outstanding post. Well researched with comprehensive info about Lithium and Aluminum mining and the properties of the elements. Great design on both map and form. Lots of useful feedback for students. Clearly designed, well illustrated and straightforward organization. Plus another Periodic table!

  2. This is a great idea for a science lesson. I love that it can be self-guided and students can explore their own interests. I had fun going through it even though I absolutely despised the periodic table unit in chemistry. The map can give students great visuals and even give them something to help them remember the specific element. Awesome job!

  3. Wow Emma! This is so comprehensive! I love all of the research you put into it! I also love the idea of including the form as part of the activity! Such a cool and unique way to look at chemistry. Students will love this! Thanks for sharing!

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