Integrating Scientific Inquiry Using the Historical Theory of Atomic Structure

Bonnie Bosworth, Chemistry, Mallard Creek High School

Final Unit (PDF)

Implementing Common Core Standards

Need a healthy digression to feed your students who think chemistry is the most difficult subject in high school?  Try approaching the ultimate science course by drawing upon chemistry’s connections to history, math, and English!  This curriculum unit makes atomic structure come alive through color filled demonstrations and a student lab which study the color as excited electrons are produced in electrified gases and in burning metals in methanol and aqueous solutions.  An exploration of what we know about atomic structure is rediscovered by following its development through the eyes of the scientists behind the theory.  Literature about fireworks and a discussion of fluorescent lights, which are also gas discharge tubes, show relevancy of exciting electrons to emit color.  The photon energy of emitted color is algebraically calculated utilizing Planck’s constant, the wavelength from Bohr’s model of the hydrogen atom and Balmer’s electromagnetic spectra.  The neutron-to-proton ratio of stable isotopes is graphed to better understand atomic stability.  The conduction of electrolytes, utilizing a homemade light bulb apparatus, leads us to demonstrating how atoms become ions, salt nomenclature, and eventually to comparisons to other molecular bonding, and even to the key ideas about how acids and bases work.