The periodic table is an incredible tool for chemists around the world. But there’s no reason you can’t use it in other ways to teach how the universe works.
I was always frustrated that alternative ‘periodic tables’ that were really just collections of stuff: they didn’t follow any patterns and often didn’t make much sense. But I was convinced you could relate the periodic table’s structure to almost anything.
I chose Disney characters. All groups follow periodicity, and each character chosen relates to a property of that element.
There are a whole host of classroom activities you could do with his idea: pick an element and decide what Disney character you’d choose; talk about how group periodicity works using examples; or even ask what character the class would pick for element 119, based on the rules. Sibrina Collins and LaVetta Appleby have done a similar exercise for schoolkids using vibranium, the element in Black Panther.
As for my choices, here they are, explained in full:
Hydrogen (H): Joy (Inside Out)– the first element in any Disney movie!
Helium (He): Up (Up) – of course it’s the good guys from Up and their helium balloons
Lithium (Li): Lilo (Lilo and Stitch) – A small, impish element always getting into hot water
Beryllium (Be): Esmerelda (Hunchback of Notre Dame) – her name means Emerald, which is made of beryl
Boron (B): Bambi (Bambi) – Bambi was Disney’s fifth movie
Carbon (C): Cinderella (Cinderella) – from cinders, aka carbon
Nitrogen (N): Elsa (Frozen) – a freezing element, combined with K makes gunpowder
Oxygen (O): Lady Tremaine (Cinderella) – Oxygen means ‘sharp mother’; wicked stepmother of Cinderella.
Fluorine (F): Jafar (Aladdin) – agent of change, also Jafar meaning river, fluorine means ‘to flow’
Neon (Ne): Ian and Barclay (Onward) – neon means ‘new’ and this is the most recent Disney movie
Sodium (Na) – Nani (Lilo and Stitch) – bigger sister to Lilo and the initials are perfect
Magnesium (Mg): Meg (Hercules) – Not only are the initials perfect, but magnesium is named after a region of Greece
Aluminium (Al): Aladdin (Aladdin) – A light metal element for a street thief
Silicon (Si): Snow White (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) – silicon is the basis for porcelain
Phosphorus (P): Elinor (Brave) – both phosphorus and Elinor mean bringer of light
Sulfur (S): Hades (Hercules) – sulfur means brimstone and is associated with the Devil. And also catches fire…
Chlorine (Cl): Chernobog (Fantasia) – Lime green = evil in Disney. Chlorine is lime green.
Argon (Ar): Pooh (Tigger Movie etc…) – the noble Pooh is also lazy, which is what Argon means.
Potassium (K): Anna (Frozen) – paired with N to make gunpowder, but also important for hearts (spoilers: think what happens in Frozen)
Calcium (Ca): Moana (Moana) – the element of nephrite jade, which is used as a pounamu in the film.
Scandium (Sc): Kristoff (Frozen) – Named after Scandinavia, and Kristoff is an iceman with a reindeer
Titanium (Ti): Mr Incredible (The Incredibles) – He’s bullet proof
Vanadium (V): Coco (Coco) – Originally discovered in Mexico, so we go to a Mexican hero
Chromium (Cr): Pocahontas (Pocahontas) – sings Colors of the Wind, chromium means colors
Manganese (Mn): Lightning McQueen (Cars) – manganese is added to unleaded petrol
Iron (Fe): Captain Hook (Peter Pan) – the iron-handed (literally) villain
Cobalt (Co): Creeper (Black Cauldron) – Means goblin, which Creeper is!
Nickel (Ni): Nick (Zootopia) the obvious choice here, he’s also a devilish copper
Copper (Cu): Judy Hopps (Zootopia) – Copper is UK slang for a police officer
Zinc (Zn): Elastagirl (The Incredibles)– a highly malleable metal
Gallium (Ga): Gaston (Beauty and the Beast) – the ultimate French cock
Germanium (Ge): Flynn Ryder (Tangled) – A German hero for Germanium
Astatine (As): Wicked Queen (Snow White and the 7 Dwarves) – The greatest poisoner of them all! Not very fair.
Selenium (Se): Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty) – Selene was a goddess who made someone fall asleep forever
Bromine (Br): Stinky Pete (Toy Story 2) – Bromine means smelly!
Krypton (Kr): Mushu (Mulan) – Hidden, but there just the same!
Rubidium (Rb): Giselle (Enchanted) – A redhead who reacts badly to being thrown down a well
Strontium (Sr): Merida (Brave) – The Scottish element gets its Scottish princess.
Yttrium (Y): Rex (Toy Story) – similarity to the animals in our Ytterby series, but not quite
Zirconium (Zr): Hans (Frozen) – means gold-like, which is how Hans seems to be
Niobium (Nb): Kenai (Brother Bear) – Niobe was punished for hubris, like Kenai
Molybdenum (Mo): Geppetto (Pinocchio) – father of our element 43
Technetium (Tc): Pinocchio (Pinocchio) – technetium means artificial, just like our puppet boy
Ruthenium (Ru): Peter (Make Mine Music) – from the Russian story Peter and the Wolf
Rhodium (Rh): Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) – means rose-coloured; Aurora is also known as Briar Rose
Palladium (Pd): Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians) – Pallas was flayed skin, which is what Cruella De Vil wants
Silver (Ag): Alice (Alice in Wonderland) – Alice in Wonderland was part of Disney’s silver age
Cadmium (Cd): Hercules (Hercules) – Cadmium comes from Cadmus, the greatest Greek hero before Hercules
Indium (In): Mowgli (Jungle Book) – Indium is named after India, where Mowgli is from
Tin (Sn): Tinker Bell (Peter Pan) – she is named after a tin bell
Antimony (Sb): Narissa (Enchanted) – another poisoner, but also with a fantastic kohl eye game
Tellurium (Te): Yzma (The Emperor’s New Groove) – tellurium means Earth, so obviously I went for Eartha Kitt!
Iodine (I): Ursula (Little Mermaid) – Iodine was first isolated from sea weed and means violet, so let’s go for a violet sea witch!
Xenon (Xe): Fairy Godmother (Cinderella) – a stranger who arrives to save the day
Cesium (Cs): Jasmine (Aladdin) – means sky blue, which is the colour she wears and what she flies through on her magic carpet
Barium (Ba): Mulan (Mulan) – Ba is Chinese for 8 (lucky), also barium used in Han Chinese art
Lanthanum (La): Remy (Ratatouille) – Lanthanum means to lie hidden, like Remy under a hat
Cerium (Ce): Rescuers (The Rescuers) – Cerium rescued Primo Levi from Auschwitz
Praseodymium and neodymium (Pr and Nd): Si and Am (Aristocats) – twin cats for the twin elements
Promethium (Pm): Frankenweenie (Frankenweenie) – Frankenstein was the modern Prometheus
Samarium (Sm): Sully (Monsters Inc.) – Samarium was almost called decepium (deceptive)… Boo calls Sully “Kitty”
Europium (Eu): Basil (The Great Mouse Detective) – a very European element for Basil the Great Mouse Detective
Gadolinium (Gd): King John (Robin Hood) – a John for a Johan, as the element’s named after Gadolin
Terbium (Tb): Arlo (The Good Dinosaur) – one of our dinosaur series, all linked to Ytterby
Dysprosium (Dy): Cheshire Cat (Alice in Wonderland) – dysprosium means ‘hard to get at’
Holumium (Ho): Beast (Beauty and the Beast) – holmium is Stockholm, which is the syndrome Beast gives Belle
Erbium (Er): Aladar (Dinosaur) – another of our dinos
Thulium (Th): Sven (Frozen) – a reindeer to represent the frozen north
Ytterbium (Yb): T-Rex (Fantasia) – the last of our dinos, from the Rite of Spring
Lutetium (Lu): Duchess (Aristocats) – Paris’ element, so I went with a French cat
Hafnium (Hf): Ariel (The Little Mermaid) – Hafnium is named after Copenhagen, associated with the tale of the little mermaid
Tantalum (Ta): Mickey (Fantasia) – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice reminds me of Tantalus
Tungsten (W): Wort (The Sword in the Stone) – Arthur and Tungsten both mean ‘stone’
Rhenium (Re): Rapunzel (Tangled) – means ‘flowing’, much like the Rhine through her native Germany
Osmium (Os): Tarzan (Tarzan) – let’s be honest: there’s no way Tarzan doesn’t smell. Which is what osmium means.
Iridium (Ir): Mike (Monsters Inc.) – Iridium means iris, so I went with the giant eye!
Platinum (Pt): Kuzco (The Emperor’s New Groove) – platinum was worked by South American tribes loooong before it was ‘discovered’ by Europeans
Gold (Au) – Robin Hood (Robin Hood) – robs gold, has a heart of gold
Mercury (Hg) – Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland) – mercury was said to turn hatters insane
Thallium (Th) – Woody (Toy Story) Means green twig, so Woody!
Lead (Pb) – Milo (Atlantis the Lost Empire) Milo was a plumber (which comes from the Latin for lead). Also that movie sunk like lead at the box office…
Bismuth (Bi): Kida (Atlantis the Lost Empire) – because of the vast underwater deposits
Polonium (Po): Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) – a nasty element found in Paris
Astatine (At): Dr Facilier (The Princess and the Frog) name means ‘unstable’, which is what our shadow man happens to be!
Radon (Rn) – Merlin (Sword in the Stone) element that changes rapidly, just like Merlin in the movie
Francium (Fr): Belle (Beauty and the Beast) – obviously the French princess gets to be the element named after France!
Radium (Ra): Tiana (The Princess and the Frog) – from The Princess and the Frog; Ra. Is a common Latin shorthand for The Frogs by Aristophanes
Actinium (Ac): Mufasa (The Lion King) – actinium means ray, much like the sun rising over the Serengeti
Thorium (Th): Bolt (Bolt) – what else for the element named from the god of thunder?
Protactinium (Pa): Simba (The Lion King) – means ‘from actinium’, so paired with Mufasa
Uranium (U): Dumbo (Dumbo) – Uranus is a sky element; Dumbo flies
Neptunium (Np): Sebastian (The Little Mermaid) – what better representative for the kingdom of Neptune?
Plutonium (Pu): Pluto (Numerous) – plutonium was named after the planetoid, just like the character
Americium (Am): Chicken Little (Chicken Little) – Americium is used in smoke detectors (ie a warning system)
Curium (Cm): Lady and Tramp (Lady and the Tramp) – after the greatest wife and husband team, Marie and Pierre Curie
Berkelium (Bk): Baloo (Jungle Book) – if you’ve ever been to Berkeley you’ll understand
Californium (Cf): Home on the Range (Home on the Range) – set in California! (The bad guy is from Alameda)
Einsteinium (Es): Einstein (Oliver and Company) – well, you have to have Einstein for einsteinium, right?
Fermium (Fm): Dr Doppler (Treasure Planet) – Treasure Planet’s genius dog doctor for Enrico Fermi
Mendelevium (Md): 101 Dalmatians (101 Dalmatians) – Element 101 could have no other choice.
No: Gurgi (The Black Cauldron) – A creature who blows himself up, which reminds me of Alfred Nobel’s dynamite
Lr: Amelia (Treasure Planet) – Captain that led us to new adventures, like Earnest Lawrence
Rf: Maui (Moana) – A Polynesian demigod? Perfect for Rutherford.
Db: WALL-E (WALL-E) – To celebrate Dubna’s role in the Russian space program
Sg: Lewis Robinson (Meet the Robinsons) – Seaborg was a brilliant scientist, like Lewis
Bh: Eric (The Little Mermaid) – A brilliant Dane, like Niels Bohr (see Hafnium)
Hassium(Hs): Headless Horseman (Ichabod and Mr Toad) – He is a Hessian!
Meitnerium (Mt): Edna Mode (The Incredibles) – After Lise Mietner, so had to be a badass woman!
Darmstadtium (Dm): Dash (The Incredibles)– An element that’s very quick to disappear.
Roentgenium (Rg): Violet (The Incredibles)– William Roentgen discovered X-rays, violet is see-through
Copernicium (Cp): Buzz Lightyear (Toy Story) – Named after an astronomer who took us to infinity and beyond
Nihonium (Nh): Ponyo (Ponyo) – The first Japanese Disney hero
Flerovium (Fl): Ralph (Wreck-it Ralph) – This element wrecks periodicity!
Moscovium (Mc): Stitch (Lilo and Stitch) – Moscovium is most famous as being at the centre of a UFO hoax!
Livermorium (Lv): Big Hero 6 (Big Hero 6) – Named after a US San Francisco lab
Tennessine (Ts): Penny (Bolt) – Miley Cyrus, who plays Penny, is from Tennessee
Oganesson (Og): Genie (Aladdin) – Named after the periodic table’s own genie, Yuri Oganessian.
And finally where are Nemo and Dory? They represent all the elements we haven’t found yet!
And naturally a disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any Disney character. This is for educational purposes only.