Unlocking the Atomby: Jacqueline S. Miller and Jennifer L. Craft

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In this project, high school chemistry students investigate atomic structure from a historical perspective. Assuming the personas of eight legendary scientists and their assistants, students stage a mock gathering to explore the evolution of the atomic model. This role-playing activity may also serve as a template for weaving the rich history of science into other subject areas. The project culminates in individually written news stories about the “meeting of the minds,” an assignment that allows students to weave history, modern atomic theory, and their own twist on events that might transpire if deceased scientists could converse.

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Reviews (4)
  • on Wed Jun 22, 2011 11:21 AM

Students in a high school chemistry class take on the role of eight scientists to understand the development of the modern theory of the atom. Students research the scientists they are assigned and then must enter into a discussion with other student (scientists) to demonstrate that science is a human endeavor and has a distinct historical background. The activity which takes about two weeks is described in full and a rubric is provided. This looks like fun for the students as well as a rich learning experience.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Thu Feb 10, 2011 4:45 PM

This article describes an interesting, engaging activity for high school students that incorporates the history and nature of science with the development of theories of atomic structure. The article includes specific detail about how the project is organized and taught including student information, teacher organizational strategies and resources, and evaluation rubrics. This article is as close as you can get to having the lesson taught for you. There is room for personalizing it for your students in the list of scientists and adjustments to the student information and rubric though.

Bambi Bailey  (Tyler, TX)
Bambi Bailey (Tyler, TX)

  • on Fri Feb 04, 2011 9:18 AM

This article presents a very unique and creative way of directly involving students with the history and nature of science. The article itself creates a mock symposium of scientists through time presenting their theories of the structure of the atom. Hosted by Thales, a Greek philosopher, small groups of students research key scientists in order to role-play and present their scientist’s discoveries and theories. The article is complete with a list of scientists, procedures of the project and an assessment rubric. Appropriate teacher input can correct misconceptions. This is a great way to engage students in learning a historical part of science, which could otherwise be rather dry and boring by just reading about it in a textbook, as well as the collaborative and social aspects of the nature of science. The news article culminating assignment helps students reinforce their learning by applying what they have learned from each other. The format of the project could easily be app

Kathy Sparrow  (Delray Beach, FL)
Kathy Sparrow (Delray Beach, FL)

  • on Mon Nov 29, 2010 8:52 PM

This resource provides an unique and creative way to have students actively learn about the development of modern atomic theory. Students research the theories of major contributors to atomic theory. While working in groups, students researched their scientists. Next, they presented the findings of their scientists for the class. Information from the student presentation was augmented by the teacher. Finally, students wrote news stories about the symposium. I liked the lesson ideas in this resource because they encourage student involvement and participation. The teacher also corrected any misconceptions. Finally, the news article reinforced the students' learning. Atomic theory can be very overwhelming and boring for students. However, it is an excellent opportunity for students to see the nature of science.

Ruth Hutson  (Westmoreland, KS)
Ruth Hutson (Westmoreland, KS)

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