Website review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2015

Periodic Videos

Chemistry videos match eccentric professor with exciting explosions

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Pros: An actual group of scientists -- with a palpable love for chemistry -- narrate topics and brandish eye-popping reactions.

Cons: These are generally low-tech videos, which students receive passively.

Bottom Line: Share impressive, pyrotechnic-filled videos with students when otherwise hindered by time, cost, or classroom safety.

Periodic Videos will fit easily into most middle and high school physical science courses, and it's a great fit for chemistry courses. Though the segments won’t teach kids fundamentals about chemical properties and atomic structure, turn here for great supplements that help kids truly understand what these substances are and how they’re useful. Showcase experiments you might not do in the classroom or chemicals and equipment you simply don’t have. Unfortunately, you’ll need to preview each video to assess its specific content and ensure that it's kid-friendly and classroom appropriate.

Try highlighting one elemental video a day as kids study groups and trends. If your students are doing group reports on elements, have kids preview videos to find the most interesting one-minute clips to share. Middle school teams will love the unexpected connections between geography and chemistry: Go on location to Australia to learn about methane and wallabies, or to Brazil’s sandy beaches to learn about hidden Xenon.

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Periodic Videos boasts a library of on-topic, chemistry-minded clips via YouTube. The videos spotlight the eccentric, knowledgeable Professor Poliakoff and his team at the University of Nottingham. From the home page, users can click on any of the 118 elements in the periodic table, or choose other topics from the menu bar at the top of the page. “Molecules” showcases more than 50 videos on important chemicals (aspirin, TNT) and “Extra videos” includes those related to current events, travel, etc. The content is dynamic: New works are added, updates made, and there’s a lively, frequently updated Twitter feed. Videos range from a few minutes to just over 10 minutes in length. Most blend clear conversation from the professor with an awe-inducing demonstration, either in the lab or outside.

Chemistry geeks or not, most kids will be reeled in by a hydrogen-filled balloon exploding, among other great videos.  And, once intrigued, kids will stay tuned to the chemicals, benefiting from visuals and tidbits not available in textbooks. Beyond their content, the videos portray a group of scientists asking interesting questions, trying different approaches, and having great fun while exploring chemistry. Teachers and students will note engineering challenges in experimental setup, as well as the use of some highly technical equipment. The presenters are also engaging and amusing with their British accents and very-British pronunciation of "aluminium."

In general, high school students would benefit from a little more basic information, like illustrations of the elements at the atomic level and brief overviews on why an element reacts as it does. Teachers should be aware that there are very few explicit “don’t try this at home” warnings. Also keep in mind that, though they're not addressed inappropriately, videos cover some questionable topics like Viagra and vodka.

Overall Rating


Lab videos lack sleekness and move at a slow, soft-spoken pace. However, a sprinkling of strange-but-true facts (and purple flames!) keeps content interesting and connected to the real world.


Content is chunked neatly by element, and kids may really benefit from watching chemists interact with otherwise surreal substances. These aren’t tutorials, though; most chem students will need classroom support to fill in the picture.


Some videos include (properly transcribed) captions; find these via the FAQ link at the bottom. Many students would also benefit from vocab on the screen and links to more info. Teachers may wish for coordinated lessons.

Common Sense reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

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Featured review by
Jeff B. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Cerritos College
Norwalk, United States
Exciting videos on every element of the Periodic Table and it turns into an international hit
It is important to do demonstrations for students in any science class. But in chemistry many demonstrations are costly, take a lot of time to set up and are dangerous. These videos are professionally made and perform many good demonstrations while explaining the chemistry behind the reactions. The enthusiasm of the demonstrating professors is contagious as they marvel at these reactions just like our students do. They show how chemistry is everywhere and very interesting. These videos often spur on ...
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