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Pirates treasure mystery

  • Key Stage 3
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Problem solving
Topic: Periodic table

This activity takes as its inspiration the summer blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean. It focuses on the mystery contents of the cursed treasure chest, as well as the all-important key. What metal is the key made of? What happened to the treasure after decades under the sea?

11-14 Reactivity of metals

Published: 10th July 2006
Reviews & Comments: 24

Learning objectives

Students will:
Use information about the reactivity of metals
• to predict what metal the key is made from
• to speculate about the appearance of treasure made from various metals after decades under the sea

Try the activity

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9f reactivity of metals
• That many metals are affected by air and water
• That different metals are affected in different ways

Running the activity

If possible, show the movie trailer, which is available on the website below. Then display page 1 to set the scene for the activity and show students the mysteries they will be trying to solve.

Give pairs or small groups copies of page 2, or display this page so it's as big as possible. Ask them to use the metal symbols to 'translate' the information page from a book written by a 'pirate alchemist'. Tell them they will need the information to solve the mysteries on page 1. This part of the activity is quite challenging, and can be omitted if you wish.

Give individuals, pairs or small groups copies of page 3. Ask them to use what they've learnt from page 2 to solve the mysteries and draw pictures of the treasure

News links

This official movie web site includes a trailer as well as pictures from the film.

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?

Pirates treasure mystery review

Jul 21st, 2014

1 Star

cant download student resources

Reviewer: gwyneth heald

Pirates treasure mystery review

Jun 12th, 2013

1 Star

Teacher notes will download, the activity will not! Help...has the promise of being a real winner.

Reviewer: Abby Linton

Pirates treasure mystery review

Jul 2nd, 2012

1 Star

will not load

Reviewer: c honey

Pirates treasure mystery review

Mar 16th, 2012

5 Star

Very interesting activity, look forward to try it with my classes! :-)

Reviewer: amelie pira

Pirates treasure mystery

Aug 15th, 2010

4 Star

Once again UPD8 has produced some fantastic resources. Shared this with the department and they are looking forward to teaching it in the new term.

Reviewer: Nosheen Aziz

Chemistry - properties of metals

Jun 10th, 2010

4 Star

My Year 9 middle set pupils were engaged in this activity.
It was a useful revision tool for the Year 9 exams as it is a nice summary and good fun!

Reviewer: emer mc dermott

Reactivity Series

Mar 10th, 2010

4 Star

Good consolidation exercise to end a lesson, gave worksheet out as a homework with very mixed results, those who "got it" did excellent and enjoyed it, you could tell who didn't spend 5 minutes thinking about it and rushed it however

Reviewer: Rob Ellison

pirates treasure

Jan 6th, 2010

4 Star

an enjoyable fun lesson with a small group of EBD pupils.The pupils remained focused and engaged and enjoyed naming the metals . Some pupils needed help with their drawings

Reviewer: Nick Jones


Jan 6th, 2010

5 Star

I work with SEN pupils so the colourful resources helped the pupils engage in the activity which I could easily adapt. Many thanks!

Reviewer: Elaine Bush

Pirates treasure mystery review

Dec 25th, 2009

4 Star

upd8 activities are very good for a teacher to see how science works using scientist profiles and HSW maps.Now Ifully understand how HSW skills can be fully incorporated in my lessons. My lesson plans are far more challenging and engaging for my pupils and i am even more motivated to try various approaches. Thank you.

Reviewer: brian caesar

Core Science

Jul 31st, 2009

5 Star

My students enjoyed this different approach to learning about metals. A very good resource, the class was mostly girls and most of them like Jonny Depp so I was on to a winner straight away. Thanks UPD8.

Reviewer: Hazel Butterworth

Science Yr 9 Metals

Feb 27th, 2009

5 Star

I used this with my SEBD Yr 9 pupils (boys).
They enjoyed the different approach and really engaged. My pupils enjoy researching and this allowed them the freedom to do so (metals page 2).
We had looked at the peroidic table in depth and had learnt most of the common symbols so they quickly recognised some of the metals and this motivated them to untangle the clues from page 2.
I got them to re-write page 2 in their own words and this helped them to understand the clues. It was also evidence that they had completed the work.
Drawing the items (page 3) gave the less academic pupils the chance to shine.
I really enjoyed this activity and so did my pupils.
Thank you very much.

Reviewer: Paula Inglis

Pirates treasure mystery review

Oct 14th, 2008

4 Star

an attention getting method to have students learn symbols of chemicals and chenical properties through use of information presented to answer mystery questions and then illustrate their understanding of reactivity in water by their drawings

Reviewer: ron Hallock

Pirates treasure mystery review

Jul 16th, 2008

4 Star

Worked really well 2 high abilty yr8 sets.

Reviewer: Isabel Wragg

Pirates treasure mystery

Jan 10th, 2008

4 Star

Tried this on two separate year nine groups, one top set & one much lower ability.
Worked great for both groups (I made sure I gave the lower ability group more help and guidance).
Both sets really enjoyed it, too !

Reviewer: Stephen Clark


Oct 12th, 2007

4 Star

Fantastic activity. Pupils challenged and engaged.

Reviewer: Leon Rowland


Nov 27th, 2006

4 Star

I used this activity with my upper yr 9 science group ( mixed level 6 &7), after we had put together revision notes for the topic. It proved to be a great way to make use of their revision material. It was set as a competiton (golden merits as prizes), which appealed to the boys in the group. If using for a lwer group i would probably change some of the language to make it fully accessible for those with lower literacy skills.

Reviewer: rhona punter

pirates of caribean

Nov 27th, 2006

5 Star

Great activity for my lower ability Year 8 Group - really enjoyed the art work and could relate to what happened to treasure, brining topic alive.

Reviewer: jane Griffin

Tony Smart

Nov 15th, 2006

4 Star

Year 9 enjoyed the challenge of translating pirate speek into the modern and illustrating the treasure using information on the reactivity of metals. I have recommended it to our science team.

Reviewer: Tony Smart

Pirates of the Caribbean

Oct 7th, 2006

4 Star

I used this resource as a revision exercise for a mixed ability year 9 group. The students really enjoyed it and i will be implementing it into our scheme of work.

Reviewer: lisa biddulph

Double Blind

Oct 6th, 2006

5 Star

I used this resource on the IWB as an introduction to the main activity. Trialling drugs is one of the topics covered in the new GCSE and this was an invaluable discussion starter. It also introduced the students to the concept of the use of placebos and double blind trials and why they might be used.

Reviewer: allan hui

Pirates treasure mystery

Aug 30th, 2006

4 Star

very popular with boys. Made the topic much more fun to learn.

Reviewer: lorraine nenguke

World Cup Science Challenge

Jul 20th, 2006

5 Star

This activity was very popular with both year 9 and year 10 groups. Pupils really engaged with the work and the promise of a chocolate bar gave the competition an extra buzz. The idea that we were doing something on football grabbed the imagination of one group of boys in particular - the fact that there were no 'football' questions didn't seem to matter.

Reviewer: sarah Nhamo

Pirates of the Caribbean

Jul 19th, 2006

4 Star

Went down well with my average ability Year 10 group in the last week of term. Those with an artisitic flair particularly liked presenting the "what happened to the treasure" as a poster.

Reviewer: Tracy Roofe