Bierenstiel Research Group


The Periodic Table of the Elements is one of the central topics in introductory level chemistry courses. Traditionally, students, at the university level and high-school level, are taught the fundamental theories of atomic models, periodic properties of the elements and quantum chemistry within an historic and/or conceptual perspective that led to the conceptualization of the standard Periodic Table of the Elements. This approach can generate misconceptions and a lack of full comprehensive understanding of the concept of the Periodic Table of the Elements as students sometimes rather memorize the  information and concepts only to be repeated at exams. Some students, despite even obtaining high marks in examinations about the Periodic Table, do not fully comprehend it. The following in class assignment/ group work is a hands-on and fun process that explains, step-by-step, the intrinsic concepts of Periodic Table of the Elements of “our” universe by comparing it to imaginary, different universes’ tables. The “discovery” of these new universes helps the students to understand the fundamental concepts combined in the standard Periodic Table of the Elements and that its contents are based on scientific evidence and are not arbitrary.

Chemistry Education - The periodic Table of the elements

by Matthias Bierenstiel

Check out our award-winning poster presentation

We presented a poster at the Canada International Conference on Education (CICE) at Cape Breton University in June 2014. The presentation titled "PromoScience – Inspiring Young Minds in Cape Breton: Bridging the Gap Between the Desk and the Dirt" described our approach and results of a Grade 5 science unit (weather) with assistance of Grade 9 students in an outdoors setting at the Baille Ard Trail in Sydney.

Megan MacLeod

PromoScience Project

Megan MacLeod graduated from Cape Breton University with BSc (Biology) and BEd degrees. She has a strong passion for teaching promoting inquiry-based, hands-on science as the best kind of science learning.

Anju Virick

PromoScience Project

Anju Virick has BACS and BEd degrees from Cape Breton University. Teaching yoga for over 15 years has taught her the importance of integrating body and mind in every learning experience. She sees science literacy necessary for creating responsible global citizens.


This 3-year PromoScience project, funded by NSERC and Cape Breton University, is led by a team CBU faculty: Katherine Jones (Biology), Matthias Bierenstiel (Chemistry), Coleen Moore-Hayes (Education) and Maureen Finlayson (Education). The project has evolved from similar interests of the applicants and outreach initiatives such as Project UFO (Unidentified Foreign Organisms) and the Research Awareness in Chemistry Education program.

The initiative promotes science to elementary students (P-6) and their teachers through the development of science units. The project focuses on elementary education to instil interest in science at an early age. It is estimated that more than 90% of elementary teachers have their Bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than science and have little science background, and we want to provide support. The units are collaboratively developed by CBU science and education faculty, and school teachers to provide P-6 teachers with effective tools to enhance their science curriculum. The kits contain indoor and outdoor activities and resources – supported through a website and access to university expertise – that are locally-relevant, grade-appropriate, customizable and easy to use.

Bierenstiel, M. “The ‘Universal’ Method of Teaching The Periodic Table of The Elements – A Conceptual Approach” AAU Teaching Showcase2011, 15, 15-21. (peer-reviewed)