legos
Activity

Atom Cannot Be Divided

This activity provides a hands-on experience for students to better understand the concept of the "atom". It is based on the meaning of the word atom.

While considering what I might use to better explain the concept of the atom as the smallest unit of matter, I asked my daughter, Sasha, what she would recommend that I use to represent atoms to the students.  I needed something that could easily be taken apart and would leave each “atom” separate.  Legos, as my daughter recommended, proved to be an appropriate (and fun) choice. 

Materials

Preparation

  1. Build 5-10 blocks of identical legos for each student. 
  2. Use different sizes of blocks for each student if possible.

Procedure

  1. Pass out the legos (5 connected identical legos) to each student.
  2. Tell the students that each lego represents one atom of one type of element, for instance all atoms of gold or all atoms of silver, etc.
  3. Describe to the students how scientists have studied to learn what these smallest parts of matter are.
  4. Have the students race to take apart the legos. 
  5. Tell the students that each lego represents one atom.  
  6. Ask: “Can you divide the atoms smaller than one lego?’ 
  7. When students respond, “No”, discuss with the students the word derivation of “atom” – can not be divided. Talk with the class briefly about the work of many scientists to discover the structure of the atom.  
  8. Proceed with either a lesson on how scientists discovered the structure of the atom or a lesson on the structure of the atom depending on your curriculum. 

NGSS Standards

Grade 5 

PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

Matter of any type can be subdivided into particles that are too small to see, but even then the matter still exists and can be detected by other means. A model showing that gases are made from matter particles that are too small to see and are moving freely around in space can explain many observations, including the inflation and shape of a balloon and the effects of air on larger particles or objects. (5-PS1-1)

Middle School – Structure and Properties of Matter

PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

High School – Structure and Properties of Matter

PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

By Laura Hospitál

Collage of atoms

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