Unit Overview

Learners will begin by solving the mystery of the non-browning "sugar". In the video mystery and hands-on modeling activity, learners will discover that everything in our world is composed of small atoms, which, when bonded together, create unique structures with unique properties. Learners then select their own element and bring it to life by either creating a profile for it or designing a product based on it.

Lesson Overview

Medium solveSolve: Atomic Mystery + Vocabulary Mind Map
Medium makeMake: Atomic Modeling
Medium engineerLesson 3: The Engineer - Option 1

There are two options for The Solve! Choose to have your students solve either a live video mystery on why two mystery substances behave so differently or an animated mystery on what caused chef Crystal's dessert to fail so badly. By the end of The Solve, students discover that substances that may look the same to the human eye can have very significant chemical and physical differences (80 minutes).

Learners engage in the hands-on modeling activity of showing different atomic combinations, leading to different molecular properties (150 minutes)

Choose from two options! 1. Students select an element from the Periodic Table, research its chemical and physical properties, and design a character from their element research OR 2. Students select an element or compound, research its chemical and physical properties, and design a new product or futuristic material. (150 minutes)

Next Generations Science Standards

Develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on developing models of molecules that vary in complexity. Examples of simple molecules could include ammonia and methanol. Examples of extended structures could include sodium chloride or diamonds. Examples of molecular level models could include drawings, 3D ball and stick structures, or computer representations showing different molecules with different types of atoms.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include valence electrons and bonding energy, discussing the ionic nature of subunits of complex structures, or a complete description of all individual atoms in a complex molecule or extended structure is not required.]

Science & Engineering Practices

  • Developing and Using Models

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • Structure and Properties of Matter

Cross Cutting Concepts

  • Scale, Proportion and Quantity

Inquiry Scale

  • Each lesson in the unit has an Inquiry Scale that provides directions on how to implement the lesson at the level that works best for you and your students.
  • “Level 1” is the most teacher-driven, and recommended for students in 4th-5th grades. “Level 4” is the most student-driven, and recommended for students in 7th-8th grades.
  • For differentiation within the same grade or class, use different inquiry levels for different groups of students who may require additional support or an extra challenge.

Common Misconceptions

  • Learners will often use the terms “atom” and “molecule” interchangeably, so emphasize the difference both in the video and the vocabulary map before proceeding to The Make.


    • Proton
    • Neutron
    • Electron
    • Atom
    • Molecule
    • Bond
    • Sucrose

Content Expert Title

  • Hans C. von Baeyer
    Chancellor Professor of Physics, Emeritus College of William and Mary


  • Powerpoints for Make and Design
  • Vocabulary Cards
  • Solve Student Handout
  • Make Student Handout
  • Design Student Handout
  • Vocabulary Mind Map

New: RocketLit Leveled Reading

* To give our users the most comprehensive science resource, Mosa Mack is piloting a partnership with RocketLit, a provider of leveled science articles.

  • Carbon Atoms are Great Dance Partners

    Medium 224 850
    In this article, students learn about what makes carbon so special and why it easily bonds with all kind of different molecules. Through as analogy comparing them to dance partners, the basic ideas behind covalent bonds and electron sharing are explained.

  • If You Were Made of LEGOs

    Medium 167 607
    Students should already know that we aren't all made up of LEGOs, but this article should help them understand that we're all made of matter, we all have mass and that mass is made up of tiny parts called atoms.

  • Drawing an Atom

    Medium 168 608
    The concept of drawing things that are too small to see is tough! This article explains that protons and neutrons are located in the nucleus and electrons move around outside the center of the atom.

  • Atom + Atom = ?

    Medium 172 612
    The tiny parts that make up the universe are constantly breaking and reconnecting. This article explains to students that atoms can combine into the compounds and molecules that make up everything in the universe.

  • Opposites Attract

    Medium 226 855
    In this article, students read about the basics of what makes up an ionic bond. The article starts out with a simple description of electrons and follows by describing cations and anions before connecting the concepts as an ionic bond.

  • Carbon Based Life

    Medium 221 829
    In this article, students read about why carbon-based life forms are all around us. They read about the strong bonds that carbon forms with other atoms and the backbone that carbon forms to create many thing that we depend on to live.