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Sample Lessons

Basic Molecular Theory

  • 3-D model of a water molecule
  • Diagrams of various molecules
  • Review the basic atomic theory with the students.
  • Tell the students atoms are "building blocks" for other things.
  • Explain that when atoms of different elements bond together they form molecules. (A molecule is the simplest unit of a compound, which will be discussed in the next lesson).
  • Show the students the illustration of a water molecule. Tell them that water is made of the element hydrogen and the element oxygen. When two atoms of hydrogen join with one atom of oxygen the molecule formed is water.
  • Say, "It is written this way" and write it down for the students while explaining the breakdown. "H2O" (hydrogen = 2 atoms and oxygen = one atom).
  • If you like you can comment on the interesting fact that both H and O are gases but when joined they form water, which can exist as a solid, liquid or gas.
  • Show the students diagrams of other molecules to encourage further discussion.
  • To illustrate molecular theory, use marshmallows (or peas) and toothpicks to construct molecular models. The toothpicks serve as the "invisible" bonds between the atoms (marshmallows).
  • Try the following experiment, which demonstrates that molecules are constantly moving.
  • A glass of water
  • Food coloring
Place a drop of food coloring in the water. Don't move the glass but watch closely for a few minutes.
What happens?
The intense color eventually moves through the water to become a uniform, paler color.

Molecules are always moving, so when the food coloring molecules are added to the water molecules they bounce around amongst each other and eventually become evenly distributed throughout the glass. Due to the colorless nature of the water it is easy to watch this process happen.

Did You Know?
  • The number of teaspoons of water in the Atlantic Ocean is equal to the number of molecules in a teaspoon of water.
  • There are over 10,000 types of molecules in our bodies.
  • There are 10 times as many carbon-based molecules than all other elements combined. This is largely because carbon atoms bond so well with each other. Organic chemistry is the study of carbon-based material.
  • One of the largest molecules, a giant in its own way, is DNA. It has the unique ability to replicate itself. It may be 10,000 times longer than the chromosome it is contained in, so is very tightly coiled in order to fit. If stretched out, the DNA in a single human cell would reach approximately two meters and if all of the DNA in one person were uncoiled and placed end to end, it could encircle the Earth 700,000 times.
  • Some DNA molecules consist of over 1 billion atoms.

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