AACT Resources to Teach Atomic Structure in AP Chemistry

By Kim Duncan on April 24, 2017

In April 2016 I shared a list of AACT classroom activities that could be used to teach Atomic Structure. Since that time we have added over 100 new resources to our High School Resource Library and several of them could be used in an AP Chemistry class.

Start your atomic structure unit by showing our Niels Bohr video, which tells the story of how this great scientist redefined how we think about atoms. Bohr’s model of the atom advanced our understanding of subatomic particles, and holds an important place in the history and development of the atomic theory.

Our Investigating the Sizes of Atomic Particles lab can be used to introduce atomic structure. In this lab, students use yarn and peas to compare the sizes of the three subatomic particles and will see that most of an atom is empty space. By the end of this lab, students should be able to describe the structure of an atom, recognize the differences in size of the three subatomic particles, and build a model to demonstrate aspects of atomic structure. This lab was created by a participant in the 2016 Dow-AACT Teacher Summit in Austin, Texas.

As you introduce the concept of electron configurations and orbitals, show your students our Orbitals animation. It will allow them to visualize how orbitals are superimposed upon one another within an atom, in three dimensions. The orbitals depicted in this animation are 1s, 2s, 2p, 3s, 3p, 4s, and 3d.

Then use a lesson about Electron Configuration and the Periodic Table to help your students learn how the periodic table can be used to predict the electron configuration of an atom and better predict the reactivity of an atom. By the end of this lesson, your students will be able to write the electron configuration of an atom using the Aufbau Principle, correlate the valence orbital of an atom with the atom’s placement, and predict the relative reactivity of an atom based on its electron configuration and placement on the periodic table. This lesson was created by a participant in the 2016 Dow-AACT Teacher Summit in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

You can help your students use atomic models and data to build a scientific argument about the relationship between energy and spectral lines with our lesson about Modeling Energy in Chemistry:Energy and the Electron. This activity is designed to let students explore how light interacts with atoms. In the process, they examine proposed models of the hydrogen atom and use collected data to analyze the proposed models. They will then select one of the models and write a scientific argument to support their choice. Students will review additional data to support and/or refute their selection. Based on their analysis they revise their selected model and construct a new argument to support their revisions. This lesson was created by the ACS High School Professional Development Team and includes alignment with the NGSS.

Those of you who include a bit of nuclear chemistry in your curriculum might use our Alpha Beta Gamma Radiation lesson. In this lab, students investigate properties of three types of ionizing radiation—alpha, beta and gamma radiation. They have the opportunity to design their own procedures to explore the relationship between distance and radiation intensity. This lab supports students’ understanding of nuclear chemistry, ionizing radiation, and alpha, beta, and gamma particles. This lesson was published with the March 2016 issue of Chemistry Solutions article, "Incorporating CCSS and NGSS into Introductory Chemistry Investigations."

AACT is working hard to expand our library of classroom resources for AP Chemistry teachers. Do you have a great AP demonstration, activity, or lesson about atomic structure that you would like to share with the community? We are proud to feature teacher-submitted activities in our classroom resource collection. If you want to share something you use in your classroom with the community, please send it along for consideration.