Flinn’s Exploring Chemistry™—Atomic and Electron Structure Package


Teaching atomic structure has never been easier than with Flinn’s Exploring Chemistry™! Help students discover the “can’t see” concepts that will ensure their success in building and connecting knowledge. Understanding atomic and electron structure provides a central, unifying principle for studying the properties of matter. Build a strong foundation for student success in chemistry with this integrated set of hands-on and minds-on activities—two experiments, two demonstrations and two POGIL™ activities.


  • Energy and wavelength of light
  • Scientific method
  • Excited states vs. ground states
  • Absorbance vs. transmittance
  • Atomic emission
  • Photoelectric effect
  • Atomic structure


What’s in this Atomic and Electron Structure Package?

Your package includes chemicals and specialty equipment to perform the lab and learning activities listed. Quantities of chemicals are sufficient for three classes of 30 students working in pairs! Instructions for all activities may be found in Atomic and Electron Structure, Volume 3 in the Flinn ChemTopic™ Labs series, which is included in the package. Student handouts for each activity may be reproduced for classroom use. Comprehensive instructions and teacher notes, with real sample data and answers to all questions, are also provided for each activity. All of the lab activities were created under the direction of the Flinn Scientific Curriculum Advisory Board of master teachers, and then tested and retested to optimize safety and success. These activities truly are the best of the best!

The following activities may be performed in any order. One possible lesson plan is described.

  • The Think Tube—A “Black-Box” Activity (Demonstration)
  • Atomic Target Practice—Rutherford Scattering and the Nuclear Atom (Experiment)
  • Isotopes (POGIL Activity)
  • Average Atomic Mass (POGIL Activity)
  • Energy in Photons—Light Energy (Demonstration)
  • Flame Tests—Atomic Emission and Electron Energy Levels (Experiment)

Experiment Overview

The Think Tube
What was it like to imagine the structure of the atom? How do you determine the structure of something you cannot see? Simply assemble the Think Tube according to the instructions provided and watch the fun—and fulfillment—your students will experience when they deduce the hidden construction of this “black-box” demonstration. Indirect evidence can be very persuasive!

Atomic Target Practice
Rutherford scattering is one of the most famous experiments of all time, more so because the results could not have been more shocking or surprising to the scientists involved. In this simulation students model the process by tracing the apparent paths of marbles as they strike an unseen target. A great exercise in inductive reasoning, with super-value materials that can be reused year after year!

Students will learn important structural characteristics of atoms, the effect of subatomic particles on the mass and charge of atoms, and, finally, isotopes. The activity is written in a guided-inquiry format, a tried-and-true method for driving home important concepts!

Average Atomic Mass
This is the perfect activity to incorporate into your elements lessons! Students build on the Isotopes POGIL™ activity to explore different mass numbers of the same element.

Energy in Photons
This demonstration uses glow-in-the-dark phosphorescence to illustrate abstract concepts at the heart of the quantum theory of electron structure. What color light will have enough energy to excite electrons in a phosphorescent strip? Explore the relationships between the color, wavelength and energy of light as well as light absorption and emission.

Flame Tests
A classic and very colorful experiment! Students explore qualitative evidence for the electronic structure of atoms by observing the characteristic colors of light emitted by different metal compounds. Identifying an unknown also introduces the concept of qualitative analysis.


The Think Tube
Nylon string, 3 ft, 2
Tube, white
Wood balls, assorted colors, 4

Atomic Target Practice
Cardboard squares, 8
Cork stoppers, size 5, 32
Glue stick
Marbles, 20
Push pins, 32
Wooden disc
Wooden half-circle
Wooden hexagon
Wooden parallelogram
Wooden rectangle
Wooden right triangle
Wooden square
Wooden triangle

Energy in Photons
Energy in Photons card

Flame Tests
Calcium chloride, 50 g
Copper(II) chloride, 50 g
Lithium chloride, 50 g
Potassium chloride, 50 g
Sodium chloride, 50 g
Strontium chloride, 50 g
Wood splints, 230

Prelab Preparation

The Think Tube—A “Black-Box” Activity

  1. Loop the cords through a washer. Place the washer in the middle of the tube (see Figure 1).
  2. Pull the ends of the cords through the holes of the tube.
  3. Pull the ends of the cords through the holes of the wooden beads and tie a knot at the end of the cords to hold the beads in place. Use the red bead in the upper left position, the yellow bead in the lower left position, the blue bead in the upper right position and the green bead in the lower right position.
  4. Cover the ends of the tube with the tube caps that have been provided.

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