28 Apr 2017

Community Building with Cupcakes

Submitted by Anne Bentley, Lewis & Clark College

For the past two years, students in my advanced inorganic course have prepared a periodic table of cupcakes as part of our campus-wide celebration of student scholarly work.  Whether or not making cupcakes qualifies as scholarship is up for debate, but we do incorporate a scholarly component. For more information about this year’s effort, see the learning object about our periodic table trivia contest.

Creating the periodic table of cupcakes is a great community-building activity and inspires a fondness for the periodic table among all of us. I bake the mini-cupcakes at home the night before, transport them to campus by car (large, shallow boxes work best), and as a group, we gather to frost and label the cupcakes. This year we printed a poster-sized copy of the periodic table to put on the table and help guide our organization. Note that we have not yet become proficient enough to organize the frosting colors by electron block, radioactivity, or state at room temperature.

It’s fun to watch the students work together: Who will frost? Who will label? Which frosting colors will we use and how?  How do we avoid duplication?   In the end, everyone is happy, and we get to promote the periodic table to visitors from across campus who stop by our table.

I was first inspired by hearing about Barb Reisner’s cupcake project.  Has anyone else done this?  Feel free to share stories in the comments.