Teaching Models for Atomic Structures

Written by michaelyn erickson
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Teaching Models for Atomic Structures
Make a classroom model of an atom to help students understand the structure. (atome image by Jacques PALUT from Fotolia.com)

Models in the classroom are a good way to teach students about atomic structure. Because the structure of atoms and molecules cannot be seen with the naked eye, they would be difficult to fully explain without the use of models, diagrams and animation. A simple classroom model is easy to construct for students being introduced to atomic structure. Engage the kids by letting them make their own models in small groups out of craft materials. More intricate models are achievable through supplies available in educational shops.

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Making a Physical Model

Generally, a model of an atomic structure can be made with simple classroom materials. Use balls of different colours and sizes to represent an atom nucleus and the electrons around it. The nucleus is a larger ball; represent protons and neutrons with two different colours of smaller balls glued to the larger ball. Use a third colour of small balls to make the electrons, attaching them using wooden dowels to set them off from the nucleus. If the classroom is more advanced, a more intricate model may be required. In this case there are many kits available for purchase through educational and scientific retail companies for building intricate models.

Models aid Education

Classroom models help students learn. According to the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College, classroom models create an interactive learning environment. Interactive classrooms engage students. A visual representation of something that cannot be seen with the naked eye helps students to grasp the concept of atomic structure.

Additional Lesson Plans

Aside from physical models, teachers should be prepared with other material, such as diagrams for an overhead projector or a video depicting the change in atomic structure as molecules form. Related subjects that should be covered include matter, elements, molecules and the hierarchy of the universe. Form a clear objective around which to focus your lesson plan. Tell the students what they will learn through looking at the model. Science Teacher Program suggests putting together a small quiz to give students after the lesson. Teachers should always be aware of where the students are in their learning to create better lesson plans.

Using a Model

To transfer the knowledge about the model into knowledge about actual atomic structure, teach students about how models aid real world science and industry. Scientists use representative models to perform experiments, test theories, create simulations and gather data. By studying a physical model, students can learn about how the model is different from the actual structure and what about an actual atom we cannot recreate in the classroom, such as the speed of spinning electrons.

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