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published by the Concord Consortium
This is an interactive, scaffolded activity that allows students to build an atom within the framework of a newer orbital model. It opens with an explanation of why the Bohr model is incorrect and provides an analogy for understanding orbitals that is simple enough for beginners. As the activity progresses, users build atoms and ions by adding or removing protons, electrons, and neutrons. As changes are made, the model displays the atomic number, net charge, and isotope symbol. Try the "Add an Electron" Flash interactive to build electrons around a boron nucleus and see how electrons align from lower-to-higher energy.

See Related Materials for a Teacher's Guide that supplements this particular resource. It includes an activity answer key and homework questions for students.

This item is part of the Concord Consortium, a nonprofit research and development organization dedicated to transforming education through technology. The Concord Consortium develops deeply digital learning innovations for science, mathematics, and engineering. The models are all freely accessible. Users may register for additional free access to capture data and store student work products.

Please note that this resource requires Java, or Flash.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Modeling
- Technology
= Multimedia
Modern Physics
- Atomic Physics
= Atomic Models
= Electron Properties
- Nuclear Physics
= Models of the Nucleus
- High School
- Middle School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Curriculum support
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Interactive Simulation
= Model
= Problem/Problem Set
- Audio/Visual
= Illustration
= Movie/Animation
Intended Users Formats Ratings
- Learners
- Administrators
- Educators
- General Publics
- application/java
- application/flash
- application/pdf
- text/html
- video/quicktime
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© 2007 The Concord Consortium
Science of Atoms and Molecules, atom builder, atom simulations, atomic simulations, atomic structure, atomic/molecular, build an atom, ions, isotopes, orbital model, orbitals, periodic table
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created May 6, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
October 2, 2013 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
November 25, 2008
Other Collections:

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4D. The Structure of Matter
  • 6-8: 4D/M1a. All matter is made up of atoms, which are far too small to see directly through a microscope.
  • 9-12: 4D/H1. Atoms are made of a positively charged nucleus surrounded by negatively charged electrons. The nucleus is a tiny fraction of the volume of an atom but makes up almost all of its mass. The nucleus is composed of protons and neutrons which have roughly the same mass but differ in that protons are positively charged while neutrons have no electric charge.
  • 9-12: 4D/H2. The number of protons in the nucleus determines what an atom's electron configuration can be and so defines the element. An atom's electron configuration, particularly the outermost electrons, determines how the atom can interact with other atoms. Atoms form bonds to other atoms by transferring or sharing electrons.
  • 9-12: 4D/H3. Although neutrons have little effect on how an atom interacts with other atoms, the number of neutrons does affect the mass and stability of the nucleus. Isotopes of the same element have the same number of protons (and therefore of electrons) but differ in the number of neutrons.
  • 9-12: 4D/H4. The nucleus of radioactive isotopes is unstable and spontaneously decays, emitting particles and/or wavelike radiation. It cannot be predicted exactly when, if ever, an unstable nucleus will decay, but a large group of identical nuclei decay at a predictable rate. This predictability of decay rate allows radioactivity to be used for estimating the age of materials that contain radioactive substances.

10. Historical Perspectives

10F. Understanding Fire
  • 9-12: 10F/H5. Since Lavoisier and Dalton, the system for describing chemical reactions has been vastly extended to account for the configuration taken by atoms when they bond to one another and to describe the inner workings of atoms that account for why they bond as they do.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
11D. Scale
  • 6-8: 11D/M3. Natural phenomena often involve sizes, durations, and speeds that are extremely small or extremely large. These phenomena may be difficult to appreciate because they involve magnitudes far outside human experience.

Next Generation Science Standards

Matter and Its Interactions (HS-PS1)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Use the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms. (HS-PS1-1)
  • Develop a model to illustrate that the release or absorption of energy from a chemical reaction system depends upon the changes in total bond energy. (HS-PS1-4)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Structure and Properties of Matter (PS1.A)
  • Each atom has a charged substructure consisting of a nucleus, which is made of protons and neutrons, surrounded by electrons. (9-12)
  • The periodic table orders elements horizontally by the number of protons in the atom's nucleus and places those with similar chemical properties in columns. The repeating patterns of this table reflect patterns of outer electron states. (9-12)
  • The structure and interactions of matter at the bulk scale are determined by electrical forces within and between atoms. (9-12)
Types of Interactions (PS2.B)
  • Attraction and repulsion between electric charges at the atomic scale explain the structure, properties, and transformations of matter, as well as the contact forces between material objects. (9-12)
Relationship Between Energy and Forces (PS3.C)
  • When two objects interacting through a field change relative position, the energy stored in the field is changed. (9-12)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Scale, Proportion, and Quantity (3-12)
  • The significance of a phenomenon is dependent on the scale, proportion, and quantity at which it occurs. (9-12)
Structure and Function (K-12)
  • Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts, therefore complex natural structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function. (6-8)
Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems (1-12)
  • Science assumes the universe is a vast single system in which basic laws are consistent. (9-12)

Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)
    • Analyze data using computational models in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims. (9-12)
Developing and Using Models (K-12)
  • Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)
    • Develop a model based on evidence to illustrate the relationships between systems or between components of a system. (9-12)
    • Use a model to provide mechanistic accounts of phenomena. (9-12)
Science Models, Laws, Mechanisms, and Theories Explain Natural Phenomena (2-12)
  • Models, mechanisms, and explanations collectively serve as tools in the development of a scientific theory. (9-12)
Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)
  • Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)
    • Create or revise a simulation of a phenomenon, designed device, process, or system. (9-12)
    • Use mathematical or computational representations of phenomena to describe explanations. (9-12)
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Record Link
AIP Format
(The Concord Consortium, Concord, 2007), WWW Document, (
Concord Consortium: Atomic Structure (The Concord Consortium, Concord, 2007), <>.
APA Format
Concord Consortium: Atomic Structure. (2008, November 25). Retrieved April 16, 2014, from The Concord Consortium:
Chicago Format
The Concord Consortium. Concord Consortium: Atomic Structure. Concord: The Concord Consortium, November 25, 2008. (accessed 16 April 2014).
MLA Format
Concord Consortium: Atomic Structure. Concord: The Concord Consortium, 2007. 25 Nov. 2008. 16 Apr. 2014 <>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {Concord Consortium: Atomic Structure}, Publisher = {The Concord Consortium}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {16 April 2014}, Month = {November 25, 2008}, Year = {2007} }
Refer Export Format

%T Concord Consortium: Atomic Structure
%D November 25, 2008
%I The Concord Consortium
%C Concord
%O application/java

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D November 25, 2008
%T Concord Consortium: Atomic Structure
%I The Concord Consortium
%V 2014
%N 16 April 2014
%8 November 25, 2008
%9 application/java

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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

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Concord Consortium: Atomic Structure:

Is Supplemented By Chemguide: Atomic Orbitals

This tutorial explains atomic orbitals in a way that is comprehensible to beginners. Includes a question set with answers to self-gauge understanding.

relation by Caroline Hall
Has Teaching Guide Teachers Guide: Atomic Structure

An instructor's guide developed by the authors specifically to accompany the Concord Consortium Atomic Structure interactive model. Includes learning objectives, discussion questions.

relation by Caroline Hall

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