Reflection: Modeling Scale Model of an Atom - Section 3: Teacher Demonstration

 

One of the themes I mention in my class is the limitations of model used to depict scientific principles. We discuss that authors of scientific material have to make sacrifices and compromises when creating a model. In this case the atom is conveyed at a much smaller scale so the model -- in most instances a diagram in a textbook -- can fit on a page within a book. As long as my students are aware of these compromises and understand their meaning they should have a better experience in high school and college chemistry.

The same compromises are used to show our Solar System. Often the planets are shown at a large scale and the Sun in shown at a smaller scale to present a model of the Solar System. Misconceptions arise when students don't understand these compromises.

  Compromises using models
  Modeling: Compromises using models
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Scale Model of an Atom

Unit 4: Atomic Structure
Lesson 5 of 5

Objective: Students will be exposed to the true scale of the interior of an atom using Goggle Maps as a means to show the distance between the proton and the electron.

Big Idea: Most texts depict the electron relatively close to the proton because that is what fits on a single page, the true scale is much larger, as seen in this Google Map.

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scale model of atom
 
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