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published by the PhET
written by Jackie Esler
This is a set of packaged lesson materials for middle school, created for use with the PhET simulation Build A Molecule. It gives explicit guidance in using the simulation to construct simple molecules from atoms and build an understanding of chemistry nomenclature. Materials include complete lesson plan, warm-up questions, guided student activity sheet, and assessment.

The molecule building simulation, which must be open and displayed to complete this activity, is available from PhET at: Build A Molecule.

This lesson is part of PhET (Physics Education Technology Project), a large collection of free interactive simulations for science education.
Editor's Note: At the middle school level, children often confuse atoms with molecules. This activity will help them distinguish as they explore ways to combine atoms to build a variety of molecules, using the tools provided in the simulation. See Related Materials for a link to PhET's simulation "Build An Atom", also easily adaptable for middle school.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Modeling
Modern Physics
- Atomic Physics
= Atomic Models
Other Sciences
- Chemistry
- Middle School
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Student Guide
- Assessment Material
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Activity
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© 2011 University of Colorado at Boulder
Additional information is available.
chemical bond, diatomic, molecule, molecule simulation, structure of molecules
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created October 8, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 18, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
July 30, 2011

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.
  • 6-8: 4D/M1b. The atoms of any element are like other atoms of the same element, but are different from the atoms of other elements.
  • 9-12: 4D/H7a. Atoms often join with one another in various combinations in distinct molecules or in repeating three-dimensional crystal patterns.
  • 9-12: 4D/H7b. An enormous variety of biological, chemical, and physical phenomena can be explained by changes in the arrangement and motion of atoms and molecules.
  • 9-12: 4D/H8. The configuration of atoms in a molecule determines the molecule's properties. Shapes are particularly important in how large molecules interact with others.

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.
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
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Record Link
AIP Format
J. Esler, (PhET, Boulder, 2011), WWW Document, (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3440).
J. Esler, PhET Teacher Activities: Molecules Are Made Up of Atoms (PhET, Boulder, 2011), <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3440>.
APA Format
Esler, J. (2011, July 30). PhET Teacher Activities: Molecules Are Made Up of Atoms. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from PhET: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3440
Chicago Format
Esler, Jackie. PhET Teacher Activities: Molecules Are Made Up of Atoms. Boulder: PhET, July 30, 2011. https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3440 (accessed 23 June 2024).
MLA Format
Esler, Jackie. PhET Teacher Activities: Molecules Are Made Up of Atoms. Boulder: PhET, 2011. 30 July 2011. 23 June 2024 <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3440>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Jackie Esler", Title = {PhET Teacher Activities: Molecules Are Made Up of Atoms}, Publisher = {PhET}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {23 June 2024}, Month = {July 30, 2011}, Year = {2011} }
Refer Export Format

%A Jackie Esler %T PhET Teacher Activities: Molecules Are Made Up of Atoms %D July 30, 2011 %I PhET %C Boulder %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3440 %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %A Esler, Jackie %D July 30, 2011 %T PhET Teacher Activities: Molecules Are Made Up of Atoms %I PhET %V 2024 %N 23 June 2024 %8 July 30, 2011 %9 text/html %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3440

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PhET Teacher Activities: Molecules Are Made Up of Atoms:

Requires PhET Simulation: Build a Molecule

A link to the PhET simulation Build A Molecule, which must be running in order to complete this activity.

relation by Caroline Hall
Same topic as PhET Simulation: Build An Atom - Java Version

A related PhET simulation: drag protons, neutrons, and electrons to construct an atom. Explore first, then test skills against the clock.

relation by Caroline Hall

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