Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Chemistry: Building Molecules

Building off of the atom building we did last week with colored playdough, we worked with marshmallows this week. We had some leftover pink, blue and white marshmallows from the 4th of July, so we assigned a different type of atom for each of the colors, and when we needed another color, I got out the liquid food coloring and just colored them with a drop of food coloring per marshmallow. Different size marshmallows would work just as well. They learned that there are rules concerning atoms, each having a certain number of toothpicks, and that the toothpicks had to point in specific directions. Quentin had a harder time with the rules than James, but I will review this again with Quentin when he is a bit older. You can do quite a bit of molecule building with just 5 atom types:

Carbon-4 toothpicks all pointing away from each other
Nitrogen-3 toothpicks pointing downward, two angling away and one straight down
Oxygen-2 toothpicks, pointing downward, each angling away

Hydrogen and Chlorine-1 toothpick pointing in any direction
NH3 being built...We talked about what these molecules were, in this case, ammonia.H2O, water of course CH3OH or methanol or wood alcohol In this way, they began to read the shorthand language of chemistry.
They enjoyed eating them when they were done, too.

Here are other molecules you can make:
CH4 or methane (Have fun telling them what this is!)
CCl4 or carbon tetrachloride used in fire extinguishers
CH3CH3 or ethane or natural gas
CH2Cl2 dichloromethane, a solvent

Next post in this series: Chemical Bonding


  1. The best kind of chemistry, edible!

  2. I like the use of different numbers of toothpicks. I'd been looking for a similar project - now I'll just bookmark this one. Thanks!

  3. Yup, I love science you can eat! What a great Mom/Teacher! :)


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