The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements video series

If your not familiar with the video series  "The Mystery of Matter, Search for the Elements" then I highly recommend their use as part of your curriculum.  The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements is a PBS series about the amazing human story behind the Periodic Table.  The videos, most of them 4-12 minutes long, draw on the interviews, re-enactments, animations and photographs that were shot and collected for the PBS series, with supplementary animations and images as needed.  In all, the videos make up about three hours of programming.  I shared several of the video clips with my high school students and they really seemed to enjoy them mentioning the reason was because the videos were done using actors to tell the stories and it was similar to watching a movie.

From the website: 

The Mystery of Matter shows not only what these scientific explorers discovered but also how, using actors to reveal the creative process through the scientists’ own words, and conveying their landmark discoveries through re-enactments shot with replicas of their original lab equipment. And knitting these strands together into a coherent, compelling whole is host Michael Emerson, a two-time Emmy Award-winning actor best known for his roles on Lost and Person of Interest. 

Beyond the broadcasting series a Mystery of Matter Video Library is also included on the homepage and it includes 36 videos comprising about six hours of additional chemistry programming beyond the broadcast series.  To access the Video Library and the teachers guide, go to the website at and click on For Teachers.

The website description of the teacher guide:

The Mystery of Matter Teacher’s Guide consists of nine separate pdf documents: an introduction that explains the features of the guide, annotated scripts for each of the six major sections of the PBS series, an index showing where key science concepts are treated in the series, and a glossary of scientific terms used in the program.

Another key feature of the site is that every video provides alignment with the NRC’s National Science Education Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. Here is the link to the first video in the series:

Note: Erica Jacobsen wrote about watching the pilot episode in 2015 in her blog, Erica Posthuma-Adams followed up with a Pick on the series and Deanna Cullen shared idea about facilitating discussion about the series in her post. You might want to go back and read those posts.

Publication information
Publication Date: 
Friday, December 2, 2016
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Comments 1

Deanna Cullen's picture
Deanna Cullen | Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:27

Thanks for reminding us of this great resource! The teacher guide provides excellent notes for facilitating discussion with our students while watching the video. After reading your post, I wrote a short post of my own on my blog and attached a couple of worksheets that I previously created by using those facilitation notes. If you are interested in a worksheet you can use for a sub plan or for absent students I hope they will be useful.