The Elements of Our History 

Recently, science teachers Adam Smith and Vincent Passariello helped to support National Black History Month with a “Periodic Table” featuring notable African American figures in society.


Juliana Marston.

The Periodic Table created by Adam Smith and Vincent Passariello for Black History Month.

To raise awareness for National Black History Month, Adam Smith and Vincent Passariello, two science teachers at Kinnelon High School, created a “Periodic Table” featuring notable African American figures in society. 


This project has been implemented in many schools and public centers such as Lakeland Public Library. “I was inspired by an online post about the project done at a local school,” says Passariello. “There was a template for the table with the post, so I decided to implement it at KHS.”


While Smith and Passariello were putting up the periodic table by Room 317, they asked students what they thought about it. “We quizzed students on the different people on the table, and they seemed to be interested in it,” says Smith. 


This resulted in some new additions to the table; some of the students pointed out significant figures that had not originally been included. “My favorite part of the project was when students from Mr. [Jake] Mule’s AP physics class helped add people to the table and color code everyone based on their profession,” says Passariello. “For example, they helped us add Kobe Bryant and his daughter along with Samuel L. Jackson to the table.”


This project helps to illustrate the accomplishments of each figure. In fact, while making the table, Passariello learned more about prominent figures such as Jay-Z. “He was in the entrepreneur category, and I thought it was cool because yes he’s a musician, but he has also built an entire brand,” says Passariello. “The project is just one of those things where you look at it and are inspired to discover more about the people listed.”


So far, students have responded well to the table, including Junior Zainab Kabir. “The entire idea of seeing African Americans [who] helped change our world for the better in a unique and creative way is so interesting and cool,” says Kabir.


Junior Ellis Nunez agrees. “It’s nice that the school is highlighting important black people who are making strides for the black community.”


“I think it would have been cool if Pasariello and Smith had recreated the Periodic Table using the actual element abbreviations for prominent African American Figures,” says Sophomore Marshall McCullough. “I still really liked the project though”. Though students have some critiques, overall, many have enjoyed the project. 


Some even hope the school continues to do these projects in the future. “It’s never a bad thing to celebrate and encourage diversity or the achievements of others, ” says junior Caroline Tighe. 


Sophomore Bailey Daniels thinks it was a good idea. “I hope the school does more projects like this in the future.”


Junior Jacob Prescott agrees. “Everyone deserves recognition. I think it was a really good project.”


Smith and Passariello also feel that the project has been a success. “It draws attention to the prominence of these figures in our society and all the things they have done,” says Smith. “The students seem to like it and I definitely think we will do it again next year. We may even do one for March, National Women’s History month.”