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4.7 Building a model of an atom

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Earlier in this chapter, we talked about different “models” of the atom. In science, one of the uses of models is that they can help us to understand the structure of something that we can't see. In the case of the atom, models help us to build a picture in our heads of what the atom looks like.

Building a model of an atom

In groups of 3–4, you are going to build a model of an atom. Each group will get a different element to represent. Before you start, think about these questions:

  • What information do I have about the structure of the atom? (e.g. what parts make it up? how big is it?)

  • What materials can I use to represent these parts of the atom as accurately as I can?

  • How will I put all these different parts together in my model?

As a group, share your ideas and then plan how you will build your model. Once you have built your model, discuss the following questions:

  • Does our model give a good idea of what the atom actually looks like?

  • In what ways is our model inaccurate? For example, we know that electrons move around the atom's nucleus, but in your model, it might not have been possible for you to show this.

  • Are there any ways in which our model could be improved?

Now look at what other groups have done. Discuss the same questions for each of the models you see and record your answers.