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  • Key Stage 3
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Problem solving
Topic: Oxidation & reduction

A Nottinghamshire man using a 30-year old metal detector has discovered a rare gold necklace in a field. It could be 4000 years old, and is worth more than �100,000. The finder said 'it came out as though I had bought it from the shop yesterday. It shone, it was solid and perfect in every way!'

In this activity students solve a puzzle to rank 6 metals in a reactivity series. They then use their reactivity series – and pictures – to identify the metals that various ancient artefacts are made from.

Published: 2nd March 2005
Reviews & Comments: 13

Learning objectives

Students will reinforce their understanding of the reactivity series and use it to identify ancient artefacts.

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� 9f patterns of reactivity - identify some metals that corrode readily and some that do not; make connections between reactivity of metals and aspects of their use.
� 9e reactions of metals and metal compounds – identify evidence that indicates that a chemical reaction has taken place.

Running the activity

Suggested time: 20 minutes.

Possible starter:
Show page 1 – either projected or as an OHT. Let students read the news story.

Main activity:
Show page 2. This page must be shown in colour, as it has pictures of six ancient artefacts, each made from a different metal. Tell students that they will be identifying the metals that the artefacts are made from . . . But first they must solve the puzzle on page 3 to put the six metals of the artefacts in order of reactivity. When students have worked out the order of reactivity (aluminium, iron, lead, copper, silver, gold), ask them, in groups, to identify the metals on page 2. They will need to look at the colours of the metals, as well as the extent to which they have corroded – the more reactive the metal, the more corroded it is. Then tell students to plan exactly what to tell the teenagers who found the artefacts in order that they are ready for their TV appearance.

The metals are:
Soft drinks can – aluminium (aluminium is very reactive, but it appears inert as its surface is covered in a layer of unreactive aluminium oxide.
Plate – silver (it is only very slightly corroded as silver is the second least reactive metal of those being considered)
Sword – iron (it is rust coloured, and very corroded since iron is the second most reactive of the metals being considered)
Coins – copper (they are copper coloured and slightly corroded with green 'verdigris' on their surface)
Bracelet – gold (it has not corroded at all – gold is the least reactive of the metals being considered)
The final picture is a Roman 'curse' made out of lead. Roman people used to scratch curses onto small pieces of lead. The lead is quite heavily corroded, as lead is one of the more reactive metals being examined today.

Some students might be interested to know about the workings of a metal detector:
The machine is switched on, and the 'search head' is slowly swept across the ground in front as you walk. When an audible signal is heard in the earpiece, stop! Advanced models will display the metal type, and its depth.

Current oscillates fast in the outer coil in the 'search head'. So a magnetic field goes in and out of the ground. Any metals will have a flow of current induced by the magnetism. This makes its own magnetic field, detectable by the inner coil in the search head, a bit later than the original current. The time difference is called the 'phase shift'. Excellent conductor metals, such as copper, silver, gold, give longer 'phase shifts'. And the thicker they are the better.

Ask some groups to tell the class what they plan to tell the teenagers.

Possible extension:
� researching types of detectors. (This links to Unit 9I Energy and Electricity, in which pupils should be able to describe an electrical generator)
� burying metals for a term, and checking the corrosion effects of the soil.

News links

The Guardian
See this article for the Guardian's report of the find.

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

Reactivity Series

May 24th, 2011

4 Star

Very good resource, which gets the pupils to order metals themselves in a Reactivity Series.

Reviewer: Lucie Harris


Sep 4th, 2010

5 Star

I used this with my Year 8's as part of the 'Reactivity of Metals' unit.
They all participated well and I feel they had a much better understanding of different types of metals as a result of using this activity.
Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Simone Lively


Mar 12th, 2010

3 Star

the first part engaged the group well though I found the main activity lacking in concrete objectives

Reviewer: Nick Jones


Jan 8th, 2010

5 Star

This was a great activity for introducing my middle-ability Y9 to the idea of the reactivity series. They managed to order the metals and match them to the artefacts quite easily, and they enjoyed the puzzle-solving element of it.

Reviewer: Helen Rayner

Gold review

Sep 17th, 2009

4 Star

Great activity for allowing students to recognise that different metals react at different rates.

Took my students around 20 minutes

Reviewer: Georgina Motterham


Dec 17th, 2007

5 Star

I used this activity as part of AQA C1a Products from rocks with a group who have large KS3 gaps. They found it interesting and challenging to write in a more creative way about science. Great for cross curricular literacy skills too.

Reviewer: Jennifer Mayer


Dec 10th, 2007

4 Star

this was a great thinking skills activity for both low and high ability. i used it as a main activity for my low ability class and as a plenary for my top group getting the same result in terms of knowledge of reactivity of metals.

Reviewer: debra johnson

Metal News

Jan 9th, 2007

4 Star

This was great, it was exactly what I needed to grab the attention of my year 9 class and get them interested in this lesson. Brilliant and very useful.

Reviewer: Margaret McBean


May 24th, 2006

4 Star

This acitivity was set for cover work with a year 8 class. It worked really, being self contained and easily accessible. Students did well on the newspaper article. We could even broght some 'literacy' into it and talked about audience and styles of scientific writing.

Reviewer: Jo Roberts


Apr 3rd, 2006

4 Star

Great for motivating bottom set year 10 on a Monday morning. Even the most apathetic pupil was able to contribute something positive!

Reviewer: Sarah Kononowicz


Oct 26th, 2005

3 Star

This activity engaged a limited year 9 group for a long enough for most to attempt to identify each item. The lead fragment might be better drawn as a wine goblet so the pupils can recognise the artifact (instead of "what shall we call that?")
In the reactivity information the names of the metals, as well as the symbols, would have been helpful to lower ability pupils.

Reviewer: s evans


Mar 11th, 2005

5 Star

This was brilliant! It allowed every ability group to contribute and was an excellent way of reviewing metals and reactivity! Being a girl school, the topic of GOLD was always going to be a winner!

Reviewer: Radha Jaipersad

Love on the brain

Mar 4th, 2005

5 Star

This was exactly what I needed to let my class have a discussion on their favorite topic- relationships. An excelent way to incorporate science.

Reviewer: Doris Evans