An atom is the unit of matter that all objects in the universe are composed of. Atoms are made of a dense nucleus surrounded by energy levels made up of negatively charged electrons. Different atomic elements each have a unique number of protons. To learn about the basics of atomic structure with a visual aid, you can create a model of an atom composed of wooden or iron rings to represent the atom's energy levels, a styrofoam ball to represent the nucleus and small objects to represent the neutrons, protons and electrons.
Select an atom to model from the periodic table. The atomic number above the element name represents the number of protons and electrons in the element. To find the number of neutrons, subtract the number of protons from the mass number written underneath the name of the element. Write down the number of neutrons, protons and electrons.
Find the arrangement of the electrons on each level by finding the electron configuration table for the element. The first row of numbers represents the number of energy levels. The superscript number represents the number of electrons in a sub shell. To get the number of electrons in each shell, add together the superscript numbers across each column. Write down the number of energy levels and the number of electrons in each shell.
Use one wooden or wire ring to represent each energy level. The circles should be placed together concentrically, with the first energy level the largest ring and the last the smallest. Glue jelly beans or mini marshmallows onto the rings to represent the number of electrons in each shell.
Use the styrofoam ball to represent the nucleus of the atom. Glue small objects, such as beads, to the styrofoam ball to represent the number of protons and neutrons in the element. Place the styrofoam ball in the centre of the rings.
Display the atom model by either gluing the rings and styrofoam ball to a piece of paper or wall, or hanging from the ceiling by tying it all together with one or more pieces of string.