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Atoms and Molecules

Compiled By: Mrs. G

This is a collection of activities that can be used to reinforce the concept of atoms and molecules.

atoms activity
Posted by: Debra L. May

I use Fruit Loops and paper plates to model the parts of an atom. Each student is given a handful of cereal and a plate. Each is assigned an element with a relatively low atomic number. Choosing a color for each part (green=proton, etc.), they glue each piece to the plate. To correspond with this model, they attach a key (index card)to give further information about their project. They often have plenty of cereal left over to snack on!

small atoms
Posted by: Julianne

I've had kids use a plastic dough (Like Sculpy or Fimo) that can be baked to harden it. Create the Protons from one color, the Neutrons from another and group them as a cluster. Then add the Electrons from another color by sticking them on toothpicks into the nucleus. Bake the whole thing and you should be able to suspend the finished project from the ceiling. They aren't very large or heavy.

Posted by: wendy

This is a great activity. Divide the gumdrops into colors. Use toothpicks to combine the atoms. For example, if you want to make a water molecule, use 2 green gumdrops for the 2 hydrogen atoms. Use a red gumdrop to represent the one oxygen atom. Combine them with toothpicks so that there is a green--red--green sequence. They should actually be in a slightly V shape. This is good for any small molecule.

I like this one.
Posted by: JohnV

Use a clear plastic shoebox.

Put a few balls or marbles into the shoebox. Tell the students the balls represent the molecules or atoms of a gas the volume of the shoebox. Shake the shoebox to show the freedom of movement and the energy level of the gas molecules.

Put more balls or marbles into the box. This is now a liquid. Shake the box to show the movement of molecules in a liquid.

Fill the box with balls or marbles. Repeat the shaking. This is now a solid.

Hope you like it, too.


Visualizing states
Posted by: Bill

I use plastic beads and petri dishes on the overhead to show my 6th graders how the atoms are spaced. Just simply place the beads inside the dish, put the cover on, and turn the overhead on. It allows everyone to have a mental picture of an abstract idea. It looks COOL too!!

Molecules and density- beginner's style!
Posted by: Molecules and density- beginne

I actually give my kids a pretty scientific explanation for this and they seem to understand. We first talk about how everything is made up of molecules; sometimes the molecules are spread apart and sometimes they are close together. If the molecules are close together, there is less air between them. We demonstrate this by having a small group of children stand in a circle holding hands. I ask them how close they can get (dense molecules) and how far apart, without letting go of their hands. When something sinks, it becomes waterlogged as the spaces fill up with water, making the item heavy. (There is also a water displacement factor, but that gets REALLY technical!)THink of a sponge, very light and filled with lots of air pockets. As it becomes waterlogged, the pockets fill with water, it becomes heavier, and it sinks. Matter that has dense molecules does not have as many air pockets, and so it takes longer for it to become waterlogged. We do an experiment in which we use paper clips attached with a rubber band to see how long it takes various items to sink. The class is so surprised that the heavier items don't always sink first! I hope that makes sense, my kids seemed to understand!

Teacher 4/5
Posted by: nspire

I love teaching about molecules and atoms, kids seem to love it too! Talk about how everything is matter; they, their books, desks, clothes, the air, etc. and matter is made of atoms. Here is a GREAT website that has a ton of information and games, written at a level the kids can understand:

After they have an idea of what atoms are, we construct some using pipe cleaners (electron shells), pom-poms (different colors for protons and neutrons) and beads (electrons). The kids love putting them together and they look great hanging from the ceiling.

Good luck, have fun!

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Posted by: Mrs. A.

I demo an atom by putting clay globs on the board .... I use two colors, one for the protons and one for the neutrons. First I start with something like Helium . Do the demo. the same way, putting 6 red globs and 6 green globs on the board. When it comes to the electrons, put 2 on the inside of the bowl and then put the other 4 on the outside of the bowl. In this way you can introduce energy level and show that only 2 go on the first level. Don't worry about the next levels because there will always be some student who will wonder how many electrons fit in the second level. Then you have your nice segway into energy levels and the amount of electrons they hold. In the end, we draw atoms and I assign them one to draw for homework. My fifth graders really like this.

Mrs. A.

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Great thread
Posted by: Alicia G

I just love chemistry. While we can't see the atoms and molecules themselves, we can see their behavior and that's so fun.

One book I like is Anita Brandolini's Fizz, Bubble, and Flash which discusses chemistry. Our public library has it and it's published by Williamson.

Molecular action is as easy to see as dropping some food color in a jar of water. Without stirring, the molecules' motion mixes the dye throughout the jar (cold water is slower in doing this than hot water).

Another fun thing is to give students a pie tin with milk (skim will work, but milk with fat does better). Drop a few drops of food coloring in the milk and the dye just sits there. Dip a toothpick into some liquid dish soap and then put the toothpick in the dye drop in the milk and the dye drop dances around quickly, a sort of fireworks in a pan. THat's because detergent molecules hang onto fat (milk) on one end and water (the dye is mainly water) on the other end, separating them. THat's molecules in action.

You can always dig up a few polymer (long chains of molecules) projects as you go along. Polymers are really cool. Plastics are polymers as is wood. Try ripping a plastic shopping bag like you get at the grocery store. Pull in one direction and it simply stretches (you're trying to break those long chains and they sure are strong) and pull another way and it easily rips (you're attacking the weaker bonds between the chains).

Have fun with my favorite subject.

Alicia G

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we used...
Posted by: SanDiego3rd

colored marshmallows! It was very fun. They glued the models to a paper plate and labled each one.

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Atom mobile
Posted by: BN

I have made atom mobiles using tag board. It works. Make the following patterns for students to trace and cut on tag board:

Two electron orbits. Two narrow O's.
One half inch wide.The diameter for #2 is 7 inches(approx. measurements). For #1 4 inches. One is smaller than the other.So they will fit in each other when hanging.

A smaller circle to fit inside orbit #1. 2 inch diameter.

Atomic particles.
Depending on the atom/element you are making the electrons, neutron and protons will be a different amount.I always choose elements with atomic numbers that would be easy to make.

carbon At#6 or oxygen At#8

The students would use a penny or nickel to make the E,P,N.Trace the penny (6x3=18) 18 times to make a carbon model.

The students would trace and cut all the pieces out.
The atomic particles were colored.
E red P blue N greens

The P and N are glued onto the circle nucleus.
The electrons glued on the orbits. The correct number of electrons on each orbit.

We punched small holes in the two orbits and nucleus and connected everything with string. On the inside was the nucleus, orbit one and then orbit two. Everything should fit in each other.

The tag board in stiff enough that the orbits will be straight/stiff. I liked this projest because you don't need a lot of special material. materials:tag board, glue/paste, crayons, string.

I make a finished mobile for the students to see.I also have drawn all the pieces out on a piece of paper(9x 11) and then copied the original on to tag board by copy machine. We have a machine that you can put tag board through to make copies. The students did not have to trace. They colored, cut and put to together the atom mobile.All the parts will fit on a reg. 9x11 paper.

I hope you can follow the directions. I can visualize the mobile but clearly writing the dimensions and measurements was a little difficult.Let me know if you have any questions. BN

Posted by: CQ

I use M & Ms to teach the parts of the atom. After introducing the parts (p,n,e) the students use black construction paper to model an atom. You have the atoms grouped in bowls, labeled positive, negative, or neutral (I use red as negative, green as positive and blue as neutral). The students pick an element from the periodic table (I try to limit them to He, H, or atoms with 4 protons or less). They use chalk or white crayon to draw the nucleus and orbit(s) of the electron and glue the appropriate M&M in its place. Same for protons and neutrons. It's a very colorful work of art, plus serves as a visual reminder of the construction of an atom.

Hope this helps some.

atom model
Posted by: TK

One suggestion is to have the kids "become" the atom. Make some large signs with + and - for protons and electrons and maybe a zero for neutrons. Then let some kids become protons and neutrons and let them form a small group as the nucleus, and let other kids make a large circle around the "nucleus" group. Have them walk around the nucleus to show electron motion.