Chemistry Basics

Lesson Title: Chemistry Basics: The Structure of an Atom (2 of 5)
Academic Standards: HS-PS1-1, HS-PS1-2,
Content Creator: Mrs. Wendy Martin
Level: High School
Duration: 35-45 min
  /  Chemistry Basics: The Structure of an Atom (2 of 5)


  • Define atom.
  • Understand the structure of an atom and its subatomic particles: protons, neutrons and electrons.
  • Define atomic number and how that relates to different atoms.
  • Understand periodic table is organized by atomic number.
  • Define isotope and give some examples of common isotopes.
  • Differentiate between atomic mass and mass number.
  • Define valence electron and understand how they are involved in a chemical reaction.
  • Define ionic bond and know some examples of ionically bonded molecules.
  • Define covalent bond and know some examples of covalently bonded molecules.


An atom is the smallest unit of matter that retains all of the chemical properties of an element. Atoms combine to form molecules, which then interact to form solids, gases, or liquids. Atoms consist of three basic particles: protons, electrons, and neutrons. The nucleus of the atom contains the protons and the neutrons. The outermost regions of the atom are called electron shells and contain the electrons. Atoms have different properties based on the arrangement and number of their basic particles. In this lesson students will handle life size atoms to identify the subatomic particles and its properties. Students will also construct ball and stick models of certain molecules.


  1. Define atom and describe its subatomic nature.
  2. Pop up an atom for the students to see. Whichever one you want.
  3. Take students to the work space and spawn a proton and neutron and electron. Push these particles out into the large outside space area to show the big difference in size. Proton and neutron are huge.
  4. Define atomic number and explain how the number of protons define an atom.
  5. Explain that the number of protons equals the number of electrons.
  6. Put up a periodic table and several atoms of your choice. Have the students identify the atom based on its electron number.
  7. Define isotope.
  8. Spawn a carbon atom and add neutrons to demonstrate an isotope.
  9. Define valence electron.
  10. Define chemical reaction and explain how valence electrons play a role in that.
  11. Spawn the atoms: potassium, bromine, sodium and chlorine and have kids identify valence number.
  12. Explain the octet rule and that atoms gain stability from bonding and filling outer shells.
  13. Define ionic bond.
  14. Spawn a sodium and a chlorine and use them to demonstrate the movements of electrons,
  15. Spawn the following atoms: lithium, magnesium, oxygen and fluorine. Have students predict how many electrons the atom will gain or lose to form an ion.
  16. Describe basic properties of ionic compounds....the salts.
  17. Define covalent bonding and explain the basic properties of covalent compounds.
  18. End class by giving them spheres and rods (lasers) and have them build models of compounds. For example: CO2, NH3, a phosphate group, sulfur oxide, etc.

Demonstratives & Media

Virtual Field Trips & Lab Demonstrations
Instructional Videos
3D objects

Suggested Ancillary Support

This lesson involves mostly hands on with atoms. Teacher can choose to use any atom that fits in the scenario. All atoms are available in our IFX library