Build an atom

Pandora Sifnioti
Age range: 
Level of difficulty: 
Level of interaction: 
Average learning time: 
1 didactic hour
Access rights: 
Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY)

This Inquiry Learning Space is designed for young Chemistry students of lower secondary school (12-15 years old) and aims at introducingan atom’s main "building blocks": protons, neutron and electrons.

Students will “build” atoms through the addition or removal of protons, neutrons and electrons. Through this activity they will discover in a fun, interactive and easy way:

  • The position of each particle in an atom
  • The charge of each particle and how this contributes to the charge of an atom
  • The link of the number of particles with the mass and atomic number of an atom
  • The link of the number of protons with the position of an element in the atomic table.

Students will also be introduced to the first and second energy level, the stability or instability of an atom and a teacher can decide whether to use the orbit or the cloud model.

The learning approach is divided into two activities:

Activity 1: “Atom”

In this activity students “build” four different atoms. They do this by adding or removing particles to their atoms, through dragging them in and out of the atom model. During this activity, the online lab notes the net charge of the atom and its mass number, as well as the element’s name, whether it is neutral or an ion and whether it is stable or not.

Activity 2: “Symbol”

Once again, students add or remove protons, electrons and neutrons to an atom, but this time focus on the symbol of the atom (including the mass and atomic number) and its position in the periodic table.

Inquiry Learning Phases: 
Orientation (Orientation)
Conceptualisation (Conceptualisation)
Investigation (Investigation)
Apps in use: 

An app to show the chemical elements in the standard periodic table. The elements are shown with their atomic number and their symbol, which is a one to three letter long abbreviation; for instance Fe for iron. For each element the full name,...Read more

Domain specific apps
App type: 
OpenSocial gadget
Conclusion (Conclusion)
Discussion (Discussion)
Apps in use: 

This app allows students to upload files, e.g., assignment and reports, to the Inquiry learning Space. The app also allows teachers to download the uploaded files.Read more

Collaboration apps, General apps
App type: 
OpenSocial gadget

The third ILS is based on the structure of an atom and is designed for young chemistry students (12-15). Through the pHET lab provided, students are supposed to build atoms using the three main "building blocks": protons, neutron and electrons. They will also be discovering their link to elements and their position in the periodic table.

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