Structure of the Atom
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Donatello, Therese Weber High School
1. Students will learn basic facts about the Dalton, Thomson, and Rutherford concepts
of the atom.
2. Perform a phenomenological activity to illustrate the various concepts of the
Equipment and Materials
Boxes paper clips
coat hangers styrofoam balls
marbles heavy gauge plastic
1"x2" piece of wood felt
Preparation of boxes:
Make a cut across the front and back of the boxes high enough for a marble to
roll through. Place a piece of coat hanger 1 cm from the top of the box through the
uncut sides of the boxes. Cut a piece of cardboard long enough for a 15 cm apron in
front of the box and a 30 cm piece protruding from the back of the box. Cut a piece
of felt large enough to cover the 30 cm protruding piece of cardboard. Tape the felt
to the cardboard. Make sides to enclose the 30 cm piece of cardboard. Attach
styrofoam balls to one another to fit across the bottom of box one, then attach them
to the coat hanger at the top of the box. Hang heavy guage plastic from the coat
hanger in box two. Hang three or four styrofoam balls, with spaces between them, from
the coat hanger in box three.
Other equipment and instructions:
Make a groove in the 1"x2" piece of wood the width of the marble. Make a work
sheet using the phenomenological approach for the use of the boxes.
Box one illustrates John Dalton's theory of the atom being solid. Box two
illustrates J.J. Thomson's theory of a nebular atom. Box three illustrates
Rutherford's idea of the atom being mostly empty space around a solid core.
Follow up activities:
Illustrate the main theories of the atom. Write summaries of other scientist's
work on the structure of the atom. Make a model of the Bohr atom.