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ACTIVITY in Molecular Formula, Covalent Bonding, Review, Atoms, Molecular Structure. Last updated February 02, 2023.


In this activity, students will make several different molecules out of four types of atoms: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen in an online game. In order to be successful, the student must move a beaker on the screen to catch the correct type and number of atoms needed to form a particular molecule. Students can score points by making as many correct molecules as possible in a given amount of time. 

Grade Level

Middle School and Elementary School

NGSS Alignment

This activity will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • MS-PS1-1: Develop models to describe atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Developing and Using Models


By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

  • Explain that different molecules are made up of a different number and/or type of atoms.
  • Interpret the meaning of a molecular formula.
  • Recognize and be familiar with the chemical structure of several basic molecules including water, carbon dioxide, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar and methane.

Chemistry Topics

This activity supports students’ understanding of:

  • Molecular Structure
  • Molecular Formula
  • Covalent Bonding


Teacher Preparation: 5 minutes
Lesson: 15-45 minutes (will vary)



  • No safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • ACS Inquiry in Action created this game as part of Lesson 6.2: Atoms can be Rearranged to Make Different Molecules.
  • Teachers can use lesson 6.2 from ACS Inquiry in Action in its entirety or this game can be used separately as a review activity.
  • When students first visit the website for the game, they will be presented with an overview of how to play the game. Students must use the right and left arrow keys to move the beaker on the screen and catch the needed atoms. The objective is to catch the required atoms for a particular molecule in order to make the correct molecule. Students will earn points and attempt to create as many molecules as possible during the allotted time.
  • Students can choose from 6 molecules: water, carbon dioxide, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and methane. Each molecule will be described by its molecular formula, such as H2O for water, as well as well as with a colored model. Students will need to understand that the subscripted numbers in the molecular formula indicate the quantity of each atom type in the molecule.
  • There are four types of atoms used in the game (hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen), each of which are represented by a different color sphere.
  • Students can earn and lose points throughout the game, as their score is tallied on the top of the screen.
  • The time limit for each molecule type varies—the smaller molecules have shorter game times (2 minutes) while the larger molecules have a longer game time (5-6 minutes).
  • Teachers can assign students to specific molecule games or allow students to choose depending on their preference, time available and the relevance of the content.
  • Students could compete against one another or try to beat a previous score of their own.
  • After learning about atoms and basic molecules, this game could be used as a review activity.
  • Related classroom resources from the AACT library that may be used to teach this topic further are: