TITLE: Build-an-Atom
TASK DEVELOPER: Marcella Upshur-Dudley
GRADE AND CONTENT AREA: 10th Grade General Chemistry
SCOPE AND SEQUENCE: Unit II Atomic Structure and Unit IV Periodic Table
SCHOOL: Mergenthaler Vocational Technical Senior High School

Maryland Core Learning Goals, Expectations, and Indicators
Science: Grades 9-12

Goal 4 Concepts Of Chemistry: The student will demonstrate the ability to use scientific skills and processes (Core Learning Goal 1) to explain composition and interactions of matter in the world in which we live. (NT, NTB = Not Tested)

Expectation 4.2: The student will explain that all matter has structure and the structure serves as the basis for the properties of and the changes in matter.

Indicator 4.2.1: The student will illustrate the structure of the atom and describe the characteristics of the particles found there. AT LEAST: protons, neutrons, & electrons, nucleus

Goal 1 Skills And Processes For Biology Assessment: The student will demonstrate ways of thinking and acting inherent in the practice of science. The student will use the language and instruments of science to collect, organize, interpret, calculate, and communicate information. (NT, NTB = Not Tested)

Expectation 1.4: The student will demonstrate that data analysis is a vital aspect of the process of scientific inquiry and communication.

Indicator 1.4.8: The student will use models and computer simulations to extend his/her understanding of scientific concepts.(NTB)

Expectation 1.5: The student will use appropriate methods for communicating in writing and orally the processes and results of scientific investigation.

Indicator 1.5.8: The student will describe similarities and differences when explaining concepts and/or principles.

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  1. The student will construct a model (2-dimensional) of an atom from Period (row) 3 of the Periodic Table.

  2. The student will construct a Venn diagram explaining the similarities and differences between his/her model atom and what we know of the real thing.

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Real World Setting: Education

For their next project assignment, students will have to apply what they have learned from Unit III Nuclear Chemistry and from this Build-an-Atom project (Unit IV Periodic Table) to analyze the effects of splitting atoms in a societal context - World War II and its aftermath.

Students choose one of three options for their project:

  1. Create a 10 - 12 box cartoon (in color), depicting the key events of WWII leading up to the use of the first atomic bombs in August, 1945. Include an explanation of the theory behind the bomb (E = mc2), and how radiation is produced from an atom.

  2. Put yourself in the shoes of a young Japanese adopted by an American family following the end of the war. You were 7 years old when the 2nd bomb hit your city of Nagasaki. It is now 1952. Your adopted American brother wants to interview you for a class project.
    Questions include: what happened to your family; how you feel about the teasing you must endure from some people; if you ever plan to return to Japan; why you have unexplained hair loss and vomiting from time to time; how you got your scars.

  3. You are a scientist working on the top-secret Manhattan project. You are part of the team responsible for turning E = mc2 into reality: an atomic bomb that works. You have been communicating with Lise Meitner and Albert Einstein about their respective research. You also have a personal interest in developing a weapon that, although terrible, might help bring about a decisive end to the war - your brother and fiance' are both deployed in the Pacific in the Armed Forces. Your brother is MIA and you haven't heard from your fiance' in months. Write a 1-page (minimum) entry for your laboratory notebook explaining the status of your research and the testing of the atomic bomb so far.

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Level I: Acquiring Data - Data students will acquire in this standards-based task:

Vocabulary: proton, neutron, electron, valence electron, shell (energy level), repulsion

Numbers: calculate correct number of protons, neutrons, electrons, respectively, for the chosen atom (must be from Period 3, #11 sodium up to #18 argon)

Images: protons (colored beads) should be separated as much as possible from each other within the nucleus, using neutrons (different color beads) to try to keep the protons from touching

Content: MSDE 4.2.1 Atomic Structure
The student will illustrate the structure of the atom and describe the characteristics of the particles found there. AT LEAST: protons, neutrons, & electrons, nucleus

Visualizing - the parts of an atom and how they relate to each other
Arranging: protons, neutrons, and electrons spatially using a template

Concepts: the structure of a typical atom
  • protons try to separate because positive particles repel each other;
  • neutrons stabilize the nucleus by allowing the protons to spread out;
  • electrons are NOT a part of the nucleus, but are still a part of the atom as a whole (outside the nucleus, located on/within the energy shells);
  • the nucleus is tightly packed with protons and neutrons - central mass of the atom

Processes: Using the Periodic Table of the Elements to identify a period (row) 3 atom and determine its number of protons, neutrons, and electrons applying recently taught mathematical relationships between the rounded mass, atomic number, and number of protons, neutrons, and electrons, respectively, for a neutral atom

Level II: Visualizing Information - Data from Level I that are visualized as information in this standards-based task:

Arranging: particles of an atom relative to each other, using a paper plate as a template

Creating patterns: number of electrons on each shell, from inside to outer shells:
2 on the first,
8 on the second,
whatever is left (up to maximum of 8) electrons on the 3rd (valence) shell

Creating meaning: This hands-on application really helps students to grasp how delicate is the balance between the protons and neutrons within aa atom's nucleus; as they struggle to glue their atom's nucleus (proton/beads) together without letting the protons touch, they realize that it's nearly impossible, and the best they can do is try to minimize the repulsion. Going through this process helps them to grasp why the periodic table doesn't go on forever, because at some point the atoms cannot exist due to too much repulsion; this is why many of the larger atoms are radioactive, and why nearly all atoms have at least one unstable isotope. It also helps student to really connect with the concept of valence electrons, which are the tiny beads leftover after they fill their first and second shells - these get glued to the rim of the paper plate, which represents the valence shell.

Level III: Applying Knowledge - Visualized information from Level II that is applied knowledge in this standards-based task:

Making decisions:

  • how to arrange protons/neutrons as they build their model atom's nucleus;
  • how to arrange the electrons to fill the energy levels/shells on their paper plate template

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Student Involvement - The students will complete the task individually

Instruction - Activities will be organized and delivered by differentiating the activities or strategies to offer appropriate ways for students to learn
  • Students have already completed the notes and the practice worksheet for how to calculate the number of protons, neutrons, and electrons for any atom, using the periodic table.
  • Students have completed and reviewed other classwork, drills, and homework appyling the rules of atomic structure
  • Students are ready to apply and extrend their knowledge in a self-paced project to build a 2-dimensional model of an atoms.
  • Some students will finish their model quickly (within part of one class period) and may go on to the next assignment. Other students will require more class time (ie, part of two class periods), and may finish the next assignment as homework.

Special Education Accommodations - Students with special needs will require the following electronic devices: Calculator

Special Education Accommodations - Students with special needs will require the following student responses:a simpler atom (ie, from Period 2 #3 to #10) may be modeled instead

Special Education Accommodations - Students with special needs will require the following materials: a larger/more detailed template may be provided if needed

Special Education Accommodations - Students with special needs will require the following presentation of information: Extra processing and response time

Use of Resources - The school will provide classroom time to complete the task

Use of Resources - The students will provide classroom materials such as pencils, paper, notebooks

Customer for Student Work - The student will present their work as evidence of task completion to: peers; the teacher

Assessment of Student Work - The students' teacher will be involved in assessing student work generated to complete the task

Assessment of Student Work - The following forms of assessment will be used to determine progress and results: Rubric 0 - 100 points

Reporting Results - The assessment results will be reported as a score point on a rubric and as a letter grade

Timeline - The estimated time needed to plan, teach, and score this task is one to three class periods

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Five Es Model of Instruction

Activity 1. Engagement: The activities in this section capture the students' attention, stimulate their thinking, and help them access prior knowledge.

October 16th, 2006

  1. Drill (10 minutes)
    Copy/answer #5, pg 94

  2. Demonstration (5 minutes)
    Teacher: show 2-D atom samples; relate models to the grading Rubric

  3. Reading from Notes: Atomic Structure (9/21/06) (5 minutes)
    Review the Rules of Atomic Structure / relate to visual
    (1) atomic # = # of protons (always)
    (2) # of protons = # of electrons (neutral, uncharged atom only)
    (3) Rounded Mass = protons + neutrons
    ... neutrons = Mass - protons OR
    neutrons = Mass - atomic #

Activity 2. Exploration: In this section, students are given time to think, plan, investigate, and organize collected information.

(30 - 45 minutes)

  1. Each student selects an atom from period (row) 3 of the Periodic Table.

  2. Student will construct a chart with the element's name,symbol, rounded mass a.m.u, atomic number, and number of protons, neutrons, and electrons (See instructions/diagram on whiteboard)

  3. Construct a model
    Student will verify that chart is correct with teacher (or designated student leader), who will sign his/her paper. Student may then take the signed paper to the nearest Materials Center and get a paper plate template, glue, and the correct number of differently colored beads to represent protons, neutrons, and electrons, respectively, for the model atom, along with a ziploc bag for the beads. Student will begin assembling his/her model atom by gluing the beads onto the designated area (the shaded nucleus or the electron shell circle) on the template.

  4. Investigation
    Model must show the correct number of protons and neutrons, with protons separated by neutrons as much as possible. The nucleus (protons/neutrons) should be confined to the small shaded area in the center of the paper plate, which will give the nucleus a 3-D effect as it appears to come out of the surface of the plate. The finished model must show the correct number of electrons on each energy level. Must include: name and symbol of atom, a key indicating which bead represents a proton, neutron, or electron, respectively, and student's name. More proficient students are encouraged to assist less proficient students. Students may discuss and clarify with each other any points of confusion as they work.

Materials: paper plates (templates), glue, multicolored plastic beads, ziploc bags

Student product or performance: 2-dimensional model of atom

Scoring: Grading Rubric (100 pts)

Grading Rubric
25 points correct number of protons, neutrons, electrons
20 points protons separated by neutrons as much as possible
20 points correct number of electrons on each energy level
20 points protons and neutrons close together - nucleus looks dense
15 points neatness and labeling
(name, symbol, P+ No E- key, student's name)
100 points Total Possible

Activity 3. Explanation: (15 - 20 minutes)
Students are now involved in an analysis of their exploration. Their understanding is clarified and modified because of reflective activities.

  1. Student analysis and explanation
    Whole class discussion (teacher summarizes on whiteboard as students finish working or assisting other students with completing their models):
    (a) how is your model atom like a real atom?
    (b) how is your model atom different from a real atom?

  2. Supporting ideas with evidence
    -Refer back to atomic models from the textbook (blue Glencoe pg. 231, 62, 63)

  3. Structured questioning
    (Probe / follow up to #1)
    (a) what can your model atom / parts of your model do that a real atom can't?
    (b) what can a real atom/parts of a real atom do that your model/its parts can't?
    (c) how do you think the scale/size of your model atom/its parts compares to
    the scale/size of a real atom?

  4. Reading and discussion
    - Have a volunteer read the first 3 paragraphs from pp. 230 - 231
    "Developing a Model of the Atom" and the first sentence of the first paragraph "Building on What You Know" from pg. 231.

  5. Teacher explanation
    Lead students through a verbal summary of what they have learned about atoms thus far.

  6. Thinking skills activities
    - comparing, classifying: Venn diagram: "My Atom vs. A Real Atom"
    - Student volunteer(s) may share key information from their Venn diagram with
    the rest of the class using the whiteboard or overhead.

Technology: overhead (optional)
Materials: chalkboard or whiteboard; markers
Student product or performance: Venn diagram
Scoring: Check-plus (all), check (most), or check-minus (some) of diagram completed. May be assigned/completed as Homework.

Follow -up Day 2 (does not have to be immediately after Day 1)

Activity 4. Extension: This section gives students the opportunity to expand and solidify their understanding of the concept and/or apply it to a real world situation.

(30 minutes) Decision-making

Lead students through completion of a partially filled-in graphic organizer summarizing the key points that they have learned about atoms so far. Topics include: structure, development of model over time (atomic theory), role in chemical reactions, role in nuclear reactions, and others as suggested by students.This graphic organizer may be used to help students with the Extension / project related to the development and use of the first atomic bombs in WWII (connect back to the recently completed Unit III Nuclear Chemistry; see "Setting").

Technology: overhead
Materials: graphic organizer handout
Student product or performance: completed graphic organizer
Scoring: check-plus (all), check (most), or check-minus (some) of graphic organizer completed.

Activity 5. Evaluation:
Evaluation occurs throughout the lesson. Scoring tools developed by teachers and students target what students must know and do. Consistent use of scoring tools improves learning.

See Rubric, above.
A 100-point rubric is used for the "Atomic Bomb" project Extension Exercise.
Anchor papers (examples of student work from previous semesters) representing various levels of the rubric from 50 to 100+ are shown/discussed in order to

  • help students understand the teacher's expectation
  • allow students to set high standards for performance.

Technology: overhead or whiteboard may be used to communicate/expand upon the levels of the rubric at 0, 50, 65, 75, 85, 95, and 100+.
Materials: Handout - Project description with supporting rubric
Student product or performance: Completed project: rough draft and final draft of cartoon, interview, or lab notebook excerpt (see "Setting")
Scoring: Rubric

Scoring Rubric
0 not attempted
50 attempted/incomplete OR missing rough draft
65 points missing key information
75 points acceptable; detail lacking and/or did not cite sources
85 points very good work - missing minor details
95 points excellent work - may contain minor errors; shows creativity
100 or 100+ superior work; above and beyond what I asked for!
High evidence of creativity

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  1. See 100 point rubric in activities. Students are familiar with the idea of a rubric from using the 0 to 5 scale science rubric, used to grade their last 2 BCR's assigned in class before we got to the 2-D atom project.

  2. On the next major unit test, there is an ECR (extended constructed response) question where students must describe in detail the atomic structure of an atom from period 3 of the periodic table, including a 2-dimensional sketch.

    Students will need to access their knowledge of atomic structure and recall the mental steps they used in order to construct their 2-D paper plate model of an atom.

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  1. Grading Rubric
  2. Scoring Rubric

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Cognitive Information: I will collect the following information after students have completed the project and received feedback on their score -- after the unit test, before the graphic organizer and the Atomic Bomb project (see Activities, Follow-up Day 2, Extension).

  • Describe what skills you needed to complete this task.


  1. Did you find this task to be difficult?

  2. Did you see the usefulness of what you were asked to do in real life?

  3. Did you enjoy the task?

  4. What would you tell your parents/guardians about this task?

  5. What would you tell your friends about this task?

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The grading rubric was communicated to students before beginning the task. Also, at least one sample of proficient/exemplary work was shown.

Applying this rubric to students' completed 2-D atom projects, the following results were obtained: (sample size graded as of this writing = 27 projects)

100/100: 1
95/100: 8
90/100: 6
85/100: 5
80/100: 3
75/100: none
70/100: none
65/100: none
60/100: none
50/100: 4 incomplete/unscoreable