In this lesson, students will learn about a class of compounds called fullerenes through a reading about their discovery. Metric conversions, organic chemistry, and allotropes are all touched on in this lesson. There are a series of activities to help promote literacy in the science classroom related to the reading. This lesson could be easily used as plans for a substitute teacher, as most of the activities are self-guided.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This lesson 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:
    • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
    • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


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

  • Understand what an allotrope is.
  • Realize the structural integrity behind all-carbon molecules.
  • Recognize real-life applications of the importance of metric units.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of:

  • Measurement
  • Metric Conversions
  • Dimensional Analysis
  • Scientific Notation
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Molecular Structure
  • Allotropes


Teacher Preparation: 10 minutes
Lesson: Approximate times for students to complete each activity in the lesson:

  • Reading: 20 minutes
  • Measurement Activity: 25–30 minutes
  • Timeline: 20–30 minutes
  • Elements that Come Together: 15–20 minutes
  • Allotropes of Carbon: 15–20 minutes
  • Building Buckyballs: 30–40 minutes


  • Reading document and any lessons that accompany it that you want to include.
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Card stock


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

Teacher Notes


Lesson Overview:

The lesson includes multiple components as outlined individually below. The Reading is essential for all of the activities. Teachers can choose to do one or all of the included activities. Student handouts and corresponding answer keys are provided for each item described below:

  • Reading: The Discovery of Fullerenes
  • Activity: Measurement Activity
    • Students develop familiarity with commonly used measurement prefixes and relate their meanings to word equivalents, decimal equivalents, and powers of ten. Explore the relationships of prefix magnitudes and relate their uses to familiar objects.
  • Activity: Timeline
    • Analyze a sequence of events that show how architectural inspiration, scientific collaboration, and serendipitous observation played a role in the discovery of fullerenes.
  • Activity: Elements that Come Together
    • Learn the diatomic elements and practice writing their formulas. Explore the concepts of allotropes.
  • Activity: Allotropes of Carbon
    • Compare properties of different allotropes of carbon (graphite, diamond, fullerenes, and nanotubes) and relate the differences in their properties to their molecular structures.
  • Activity: Building Buckyballs
    • Construct a cardstock model of C60 and use it to observe and answer questions about its structure. This activity is suitable for individual or group work.