How to make a sodium atom model

Written by cynthia gast
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How to make a sodium atom model
Ordinary table salt contains atoms of both sodium and chloride. (salt image by Andrey Rakhmatullin from

Sodium, which has the chemical symbol Na, is one of the most commonly found elements, ranking sixth in abundance on Earth. It is highly reactive, meaning it is never found by itself in nature but is always found in combination with other elements. A single sodium atom contains 11 protons, 23 neutrons and 11 electrons. A model of this atom is not difficult to make, but it must include the correct number of protons, neutrons and electrons to be considered accurate.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 23 small balls, such as table tennis balls or styrofoam, one to two inches in diameter
  • Two colours of paint
  • Paint brush
  • Glue
  • 11 beads, all of the same colour
  • Wire or pipe cleaners
  • Wire cutters

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  1. 1

    Divide the balls into two groups, one containing 11 balls (the protons) and the other with 12 (the neutrons). Paint all the balls in one group the same colour. Paint all the balls in the other group with the second colour. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly.

  2. 2

    Glue all the balls into one cluster to represent the atom's nucleus, making sure to distribute the protons and neutrons evenly throughout the cluster. Set the nucleus aside to until the glue has set.

  3. 3

    Cut a length of wire or combine several pipe cleaners to be long enough to form a circle around the nucleus. Repeat this step three more times, making each wire or set of pipe cleaners long enough to form a slightly larger circle than the previous one. These circles are the electron shells.

  4. 4

    Glue two beads to represent electrons onto the first circle, positioned so they are across the circle from each other. The second circle also has two beads, again positioned opposite each other on the circle. On the third shell, attach six beads spread evenly around the circle. The last shell has only one bead, or electron.

Tips and warnings

  • For an easy way to display this model, glue the nucleus to the centre of a large piece of poster board or cardboard. Then attach the electron shells to the poster board, keeping the nucleus in the centre. Be sure to keep the electron shells in the correct order.

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