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How can something so small be so spectacular? Explore the structure of carbon, the foundational element for all living things. See atoms for yourself!
Carbon is everywhere -- diamonds, graphite, fuels, even the air you breathe. All plants have carbon as their most important element. Students find out more about the value of carbon to our planet.
The smallest piece of carbon is a carbon atom. It can only be seen with a super-powered microscope. A carbon atom consists of a nucleus (center) with rings of moving electrons around it. Inside the nucleus are six protons (with a positive electrical charge) and six neutrons (with no electrical charge). Six electrons (with a negative charge) are around the nucleus.
The positive electrical charge of the protons pulls on the negatively charged electrons to keep them around the nucleus. But four of the electrons are called valence electrons, which means they are free to bond with valence electrons from another carbon atom or an atom of another element, such as oxygen or hydrogen.
Students build their own carbon atom mobile to visualize tiny carbon atoms. Students can use their your own ideas or follow these directions.
With Crayola® Scissors cut one large cardboard circle into the outer shell, inner shell, and nucleus. Here's one way to do it.
Fold the circle in half. Cut into the fold about a finger length from the edge. Cut a semi-circle around the inside of the outer circle. Unfold. There will be a large and small circle.
Trim around the edges of the smaller circle to make it slightly smaller yet. Fold it in half. Cut into the fold about halfway from the outer edge. Cut around the inside again. Trim the smallest circle, which will be the atom's nucleus. Unfold.
Color the nucleus and inner and outer shells with Crayola Washable Markers. Arrange the pieces with the smaller circles inside the larger ones. Cut string long enough to fit across the center of all three pieces plus add extra length for hanging. Lay string across the middle of all circles. Tape where the string rests on each piece.
Use three different marker colors to color cotton balls to represent six protons, six neutrons, and six electrons. Attach protons and neutrons to the nucleus with Crayola School Glue. Attach two electrons to the inner shell and four electrons to the outer shell. Dry.
Are you an innovator or inventor? Learn about the ColorCycle program and how repurposed markers became fuel.
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