Misconceptions about Atomic Structure

Although students often think that atoms are solid, they are mostly empty space. For example, if the nucleus of a hydrogen atom were three miles wide and located in Kansas, its electrons would orbit near the East and West Coasts.

The use of models often leads to misconceptions. For example, some students think that atoms have a physical bonding agent similar to the toothpicks and skewers used in "Atomic Gumdrops". Be sure students understand that models are simple representations of more complex objects. One way to lead the students into a dialogue of models is by holding up a small toy car. Why is it like a real car? Why is it unlike a real car? Work with students to develop a definition of a model.

Atomic Gumdrops

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