S-Block Elements on the Periodic Table: Properties & Overview

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  • 0:00 What Are The S-Block Elements?
  • 1:10 Properties Of S-Block Elements
  • 3:20 Hydrogen And Helium
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Elizabeth (Nikki) Wyman

Nikki has a master's degree in teaching chemistry and has taught high school chemistry, biology and astronomy.

Expert Contributor
Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

Take a tour of the s-block of the periodic table and get to know the elements inside. Learn all about the s-block elements, including some of their distinguishing properties, then quiz yourself on your knowledge.

What Are the S-Block Elements?

If the periodic table were a city, the s-block would be a small neighborhood filled with extremely similar houses and properties. Within the periodic table, the s-block is located to the far left and includes all of the elements in the first two columns (columns 1 and 2) plus helium, which is located in the top right corner in column 8A (column 18 on some versions of the periodic table). In the periodic table below, the s-block is colored pink.

Periodic table by block

The s-block elements are the 14 elements contained within these columns. All of the s-block elements are unified by the fact that their valence electrons (outermost electrons) are in an s orbital. The s orbital is spherical and can be occupied by a maximum of two electrons. Elements in column 1 have one electron in the s orbital, and elements in column 2 (plus helium) have two electrons in the s orbital.

The s-block elements include hydrogen (H), helium (He), lithium (Li), beryllium (Be), sodium (Na), magnesium (Mg), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), rubidium (Rb), strontium (Sr), cesium (Cs), barium (Ba), francium (Fr) and radium (Ra). The periodic table shows exactly where these elements are within the s-block.

S-block elements on the periodic table

Properties of S-Block Elements

If the elements were houses in our hypothetical s-block neighborhood, they would be very uniform, each one only slightly different than the other. This is markedly different compared to the other neighborhoods on the periodic table, which have a wider variety of houses in many shapes, sizes and colors.

All of the s-block elements are metals. In general, they are shiny, silvery, good conductors of heat and electricity and lose their valence electrons easily. In fact, they lose their trademark s orbital valence electrons so easily that the s-block elements are considered to be some of the most reactive elements on the periodic table.

Sodium, an s-block element, is a silvery and soft metal.
Chucks of sodium metal

The elements in column 1, known collectively as the alkali metals (except hydrogen), always lose their one valence electron to make a +1 ion. These metals are characterized by being silvery, very soft, not very dense and having low melting points. These metals react extremely vigorously with water and even oxygen to produce energy and flammable hydrogen gas. They are kept in mineral oil to reduce the chance of an unwanted reaction or worse, an unwanted explosion.

Like a few other elements in the s-block, potassium reacts energetically with water.
Potassium reacting with water.

The elements in column 2, known as the alkaline earth metals (except helium), always lose their two valence electrons to make a +2 ion. Like the alkali metals, the alkaline earth metals are silvery, shiny and relatively soft. Some of the elements in this column also react vigorously with water and must be stored carefully.

S-block elements are famous for being ingredients in fireworks. The ionic forms of potassium, strontium and barium make appearances in firework displays as the brilliant purples, reds and greens.

S-block elements in action.
Fireworks display

Francium is considered to be the most rare naturally occurring element on earth. It is estimated that there is only ever one atom of Francium present on earth at a time. Francium has a very unstable nucleus and undergoes nuclear decay rapidly. As soon as it exists, it doesn't.

Hydrogen and Helium

As we're wandering around the s-block neighborhood, we keep stumbling upon a couple of houses that don't seem to fit. Hydrogen and helium are gaseous elements that are grouped into the s-block because they have valence electrons in the s-block.

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Additional Activities

S-Block Research

In this research activity, students will research one element from the S-block. They will learn about the symbol on the periodic table, what separates the element from other S-block elements as well as the uses for the element and interesting facts. For example, a student might research sodium, with the symbol Na on the periodic table. Students might research the importance of sodium in the body for conducting action potentials and maintaining solute concentrations in the blood, or for industrial uses like cooling nuclear reactors or as an ingredient in pharmaceuticals, rubber, and other products.

Student Instructions

Now that you're familiar with the general properties of S-block elements, you will research a specific one. Your job is to choose one of the S-block elements and research what makes it different from the other elements in the S-block as well as its uses and interesting facts. As your final product, you can create a slide show, a digital collage, or a poster. To make sure your research project has all of the requirements, check out the criteria for success below.

Criteria For Success

  • Research is about one S-block element and includes what makes it different from other elements
  • Includes three uses for the element
  • Includes at least three interesting facts about the element
  • Research product is colorful, attractive and professional
  • Research product includes at least three images of the element and its uses

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