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Atomic Holiday Ornaments (3 Favorites)

PROJECT in Physical Properties, Atoms, Model of the Atom, Electron Configuration, Valence Electrons, Subatomic Particles, Lewis Dot Diagrams, Electrons. Last updated December 22, 2021.


Summary

In this project, students will design an atomic holiday ornament for a chosen element, along with a certificate of authenticity to display on a “Chemis-tree”. Students will also have the opportunity to vote on the ornaments created by their classmates.

Grade Level

High School and Middle School

NGSS Alignment

This project 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
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Objectives

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

  • Create a model of an atom, representing its subatomic particles correctly.
  • Describe the properties and uses of an element.
  • Demonstrate understanding of electron configurations.

Chemistry Topics

This project supports students’ understanding of:

  • Atomic Structure
  • Model of the Atom
  • Subatomic Particles
  • Lewis Dot Diagrams
  • Electron Configuration
  • Physical Properties

Time

Teacher Preparation: 10-20 minutes
Lesson: Time will vary (At-home design, class presentations, peer-review, voting)

Materials

  • Tree(s) to display ornaments
  • Various items for ornament models
    • Note: Students are responsible for obtaining ornament materials outside the classroom
    • No food/edible items are allowed to be used in the model

Safety

  • There are no safety considerations for this project.

Teacher Notes

  • I assign this project with enough advanced notice so that students have two weekends to work on it before it is due. I do not provide class time for working on this project, however I do review the expectations and requirements of the project with my students.
  • The requirements for the model ornament and the certificate can be found on the student handout, as well as the rubric. I suggest that students are not allowed to use food items in their ornament creation. 
  • I allow students to choose whatever element they would like to use for their ornament. This means that multiple students may choose the same element for the project. Alternatively, you could assign elements to students, or have students randomly select their element. Currently, this project does not include molecules except for the 7 diatomic elements. However, it could easily include simple molecules or ionic compounds if a teacher would prefer.
  • In my classroom we use one large “Chemis-tree” to display the ornament models. Alternatively, several smaller trees could be used, or one tree per class section. 
  • It’s helpful to have extra paperclips available to use as ornament hangers. I also allow students to make window ornaments for those who do not celebrate Christmas.
  • I instruct students to not write their names on their ornament or certificate. Instead, I assign a colored sticker and number to each ornament as an ID so that everything looks anonymous, and it can help avoid situations where students just vote for friends.
  • I find that it is helpful to have students review or vote on other class sections rather than their own class. This seems to reduce bias, as well as students voting for themselves (example: 1st period votes on 2nd period).
  • This activity can be differentiated as needed. For example, teachers could supply materials; ornaments could be made during class time; the electron configuration requirement could be removed; simple molecules could be included.
  • After students have submitted their project, I allow about 30 minutes for students to judge the ornaments and vote on several awards:
    • Best Ornament
    • Most Original Certificate
    • Most Holiday-ish Ornament
    • You ain’t gettin’ nothin’ for Christmas” (awarded to a student who clearly put in a lot of effort, however, it’s not very aesthetically pleasing)
  • The types of awards are optional and could be changed based on a teacher’s preferences. For the winners, a small prize could be offered—it may depend on your classroom.
  • I provide students with color-coded voting tickets that match the color of the ID stickers for each class.
  • Students aren’t required to follow a rubric when voting, however this could be an option.
  • Examples of student ornaments are shown below.
    • Example of a student certificate and model of Nitrogen that earned full points:
    • Example of a student certificate and model of Silver that was awarded “Most Holiday-ish”:
    • Example of a student model of Nickel that was awarded “You Ain’t Getting’ Nothin” (The student put in effort, however, it’s not very aesthetically pleasing):
    • Example of a student model of Silver that was awarded “Best Ornament”.

For the Student

Lesson

Guidelines

You will design an atomic holiday ornament and a certificate of authenticity describing the features that make your ornament so special. Each ornament will be based on a selected element.

Requirements

  1. The ornament should include the correct number of electrons along with a nucleus for your selected element.
  2. The ornament should be small enough to fit on a tree.
  3. The ornament should be as original as possible.
  4. You will also create an original certificate for the ornament. The information can be written in paragraph form, but be original, it should look like a certificate! It should include the following information:
    1. Element symbol and name
    2. Subatomic particles
    3. All physical properties
    4. Uses of the element
    5. Special characteristics/information
    6. Electron configuration

Grading

  • See rubric for specific point structure.
  • Both your ornament and certificate will be compared to others for grading.
  • Do NOT write your name on the ornament or certificate. A color code and number will be given to you and used for identification.

Awards

There will be awards for each class based on voting.

  • Best Ornament
  • Most Original Certificate
  • Most Holiday-ish Ornament
  • You ain’t gettin’ nothin’ for Christmas

*Students in each class will review and vote on the ornaments in other classes, not their own.

Important Dates

  • Project Due Date: ___________________
  • Class Voting Date: ___________________
  • Award Date: ___________________