I use the following worksheet to aid in my introduction to matter, energy, and atomic theory. I usually will accompany this with a lesson including hands-on demos, where we will build model atoms and molecules. You should also print out a periodic table to help in the discussion of the different elements, and I highly recommend using Theodore Gray’s Elements and Molecules books as a visual aid.
I don’t always use this entire worksheet, and will sometimes split the content into several lessons. It all depends on your child, their age, and how much they can absorb at once. I usually use the content below for 3rd graders, but will start to introduce parts of it at younger ages.
The content on this worksheet is traditionally introduced to students in Jr. High and High School. However, I’ve found that children are capable of understanding it on a basic level at a much younger age. In addition, introducing these concepts early on will help students have a better understanding of advanced scientific concepts as they encounter them in school. It’s OK if your child doesn’t understand everything you try and teach them! Just learning a few new words and understanding that everything is made of smaller pieces called atoms is enough to help them improve their scientific understanding, and will provide a scaffolding for more advanced material later on.
The answers to the “fill in the blank” questions are below each line, in parentheses and italics. If you print this worksheet, copy and paste it into a word processor so you can delete the answers from your child’s copy.
Matter, Atoms, Molecules, and Legos: Understanding What We’re Made of.
Everything in the universe is either _______________, _________________ or ________ _________.
(matter, energy, empty space)
Matter and energy can be converted between each other, as described by Albert Einstein with his famous equation:
(the energy of an object equals the mass times the speed of light squared)
For example, lighting something on fire converts it’s matter to energy. The energy can be felt in the form of heat and light. As it burns, the matter disappears. What doesn’t get converted into energy remains as charcoal and smoke.
But today, we’re going to focus on matter.
Everything that’s “stuff” is matter. By definition, matter is anything that has ___________ and takes up space.
You’re made of matter, and I’m made of matter. So is the table, the paper, the air, the sun, the clouds, and pretty much everything else that isn’t heat, light, sound, or other types of energy.
Matter can by divided into smaller pieces. Just like a table can be divided into legs, screws, bolts, and a tabletop, all matter can be divided into _________________.
And then all molecules can be divided into ______________.
Atoms are the smallest unit of matter that we’re going to talk about right now. They combine with each other to make molecules.
Molecules combine with other molecules, again and again, until they make up everything you can see.
So we’re basically made of billions and billions of atoms, stuck together to form millions and millions of molecules, which stick together to build larger structures.
Kind of like legos.
Atom(s) + Atom(s) = Molecule
Molecules + Molecules = Everything!
Just like there are different colors, shapes, and sizes of single lego pieces, there are different types of atoms. To be exact, there are exactly _______ types of atoms (that we know of!)
(118) Use periodic table to demonstrate.
We call the different kinds of atoms ____________________. Some elements you are probably familiar with are Oxygen, Silver, Gold, Carbon, Helium, and Iron. Can you think of any other elements?
(elements) Use Theodore Gray’s Elements book to demonstrate.
Every atom (it doesn’t matter which element) has 2 parts, which are made of 3 pieces.
The 2 parts are the ___________ (the center), and the _____________ (the outside.)
(nucleus, electron cloud)
The ______________ is made of _______________ and _______________.
(nucleus, protons, neutrons)
Thus: all atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons.
The only difference between the elements is the number of _________________ in the nucleus.
Each element has a slightly larger nucleus than the one before it, because it has one more proton than the one before it.
While atoms can also have different amounts of neutrons, this doesn’t change what element it is, only how much it weighs.
Electrons from one atom sticking to electrons from another element are what creates _______________________ between them.
(This is the process you need to make molecules. When two atoms stick together to make a molecule, they are in a ____________________________.
With enough atoms and/or molecules stuck together, you can finally get something big enough to see. Some scientists even consider a diamond to be one big molecule!
So, to recap: Matter is stuff that has mass and takes up space. It’s made of different kinds of atoms, or elements, that are in chemical bonds to form molecules.