Learning about Atoms

Learning about Atoms

The distinct units of matter or compulsive liars? Atoms are teeny tiny particles and they make up everything in our universe. Scientists have been able to discover or create 118 different atoms thus far, which are represented in the periodic table of elements. Atoms, although tiny, are impressive displays of the forces of nature. Learn more about the periodic table, early understanding of atoms, and more with STEM @ Home this week!

Online Videos: Use these links to educate and entertain!


The Half-Life of Candy: Candy is always awesome, but what if it can be used to teach students about the half-life of radioactive elements? In the activity, you can use Skittles or M&M’s (or for a non-food option pennies) to simulate radioactive decay. Scientists use the rate of decay to determine how old organic materials are within a few hundred years.

The Periodic Table of Glucose: Many scientists helped make the periodic table. When they did this, they had no understanding of subatomic particles like protons, neutrons, and electrons. Even so, scientists made incredible predictions of the periodic table we use today. In this activity, students will think like Newlands, Mendeleev, and others as they sort “elements” in a periodic fashion.

Rutherford’s Pillow: The modern understanding of the atom with its small nucleus and cloud of electrons was supported by an early experiment by a group of scientists. It involved throwing subatomic particles at a very thin sheet of gold and noticing that the particles mostly flew through because of the empty space. Students can set up their own experiment at home to repeat this and have some fun too!

For additional resources, check out our STEM @ Home page!