Student-created ceramic periodic table

Inspired by the Chem 13 News Periodic Table Project during the International Year of Chemistry in 2011, I teamed with Roy Chang, a pottery teacher, to have students make ceramic tiles for a permanent periodic table. Roy teaches pottery and Chinese art and had also been involved with a school fundraising project in which students made handprints on a tile. We decided that students should design a tile that reflects the properties, uses or history of an element.

The tile project was an extension of the element project students started at the beginning of the year. Students had researched an element and made a display of their element’s information. Students then designed a tile based on this research. I required students to do a rough drawing of their tile design and get approval for it before making the tile. Most students put a lot of effort into designing a tile that showed the element’s uses, history or dangers. Most students had some experience with pottery from their elementary and middle school years so only one class period was needed to learn how to prepare a tile. Mr. Chang helped students with choosing the right glaze to get the different colors they wanted.

Students and two teachers standing in front of periodic table on wall.

Close-up of handmade periodic table showing Cs, Ba, Fr and Ra.

Close-up of handmade periodic table showing C, N, Si, and P.


The school hired some workers to create a framed outline of the periodic table. The tiles were then cemented to the wall. The wall’s surface was rough, so it wasn’t difficult to get the tiles to stick. The results were impressive. The completed tiles are attached to the outside wall of the chemistry classroom allowing the entire school community to view the work. It took two years to finish the project since there were not enough students to have all the elements covered in one year. Photo credits: Alicia Tsai.

Close-up of handmade periodic table showing Po and At.Boy and girl posing in front of handmade periodic table.