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Real World Particle Diagramming (25 Favorites)

ACTIVITY in Introduction, Molecular Structure, Matter. Last updated June 8, 2021.


Summary

In this activity, students illustrate everyday objects on the particulate level. To do this, students pick an object around the school (or their home) and then take a picture of the object, research its composition, and draw a particle diagram representation of the object. This helps students to gain confidence in representing matter at a particulate level by starting with familiar objects.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

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

  • HS-PS2-6: Communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Developing and Using Models
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Objectives

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

  • Make a particle diagram of an everyday object.
  • Research the chemical composition of an everyday object.
  • Label and describe the particulate nature of matter in an everyday object.

Chemistry Topics

This activity supports students’ understanding of:

  • Molecular Structure
  • Particulate nature of matter

Time

Teacher Preparation: 10 minutes
Lesson: 45-90 minutes

Materials

  • Paper
  • Markers
  • Scissors
  • Printer
  • Internet Access

Safety

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

Teacher Notes

  • The purpose of this activity is to help students to gain confidence in representing matter at a particulate level by starting with familiar objects, before moving on to modeling specific chemicals in the lab during the school year.  As an additional benefit, these models can be presented in the school hallway so that the public audience gains a better understanding of the elements, chemicals, and compounds that make up objects around the school.
  • I have found that when the students know that an audience outside of the immediate classroom will view their work, combined with being allowed to choose the object themselves, students are invested in the project, and create products that are meaningful to them.
  • Tips for implementing this activity:
    • Decide on your focus: For my use, the focus was raising awareness of the atomic view of objects around our school, and not the accuracy of molecular structure. Whatever your focus, you will need to instruct students on how to produce the product you want. Some ideas for areas to focus on:
      • raising awareness of the atoms within everyday objects
      • accurate molecular structure or atomic arrangement
      • the types of bonds present in materials (ionic, covalent, metallic, network solid)
      • the reasons certain substances are used to make these objects
      • a more sustainable way to make this object
    • Supervise choices of objects: In my experience, sometimes students took a picture that contained too many things, so I asked them to focus on one object, and crop their original picture. Objects can be very simple, like a brick, or tile floor, or a classroom light!
      • Examples of student work are included below for teacher reference. These could be shared with students as examples prior to completing the activity.
    • Modifications:
      • This activity can be done virtually using Google Slides.
      • For students with lower ability, offer a couple suggestions of simple objects that you know will be easy to research.
      • For English Language Learner (ELL) students, they could create the poster in their native language (perhaps alongside English).
      • For students with high aptitude, task them with drawing the actual molecular structures (of plastics, for instance), label the types of bonds present, or write a brief description of the material and why this material is useful for this object.
  • Examples of student work are shown below for teacher reference.



Example 1: Student work created with Notability

Example 2: Student work created by hand.



Example 3: Student work created by hand.

For the Student

Lesson

You will create a poster that reveals the atoms within an object around our school. Be creative, and have fun as you uncover the atomic world!

Directions

  1. Go for a walk around the school. Find an object that you would like to research. Share your idea with your teacher for feedback and approval.
  2. Take a picture of the object.
  3. Print the picture of the object (or draw it by hand).
  4. Create a poster as described below.

Poster Template

We see a….

  1. Print or draw a picture of what we see on the big scale.
  2. Write a nice, large title for your object.
Atomic view (100,000,000 times smaller!)

  1. Draw a simple outline of the shape of your selected object (try to match the picture)
    • Make it the same size as the picture you took, and printed or drew on the left of this poster.
  2. Research to find out what types of atoms or molecules make up your selected object.
  3. Inside the outline, draw the atoms (and/or molecules) that make up your selected object.
    • Atoms = circles.
    • Label each atom inside the circle.
    • Color-code the components if needed.
  4. Label the general parts of the object (hose, water, fountain, metal stand, etc.) so people can easily understand your drawing.
    • Make a brief list of the elements that make up this object.