Guide for “Breaking Down the Atom”
area and grade levels
area and grade levels
Physical sciences for
What are the parts of an atom and how do we know?
Scientists used the interaction of matter and
energy to learn more about the atom. Through their experiments not only
did scientists identify sub-atomic models, they also discovered they could
change the very structure of the atoms themselves. Highlights include:
- Important scientists
(Dalton, Thomson, Rutherford, Geiger, Marsden, Chadwick)
- Important experiments
(Cathode Ray Tube experiments, Gold Foil Experiment)
- Theories and models
of atomic structure
- Parts of the atom:
electron, proton, neutron
- Influence of scientists
on their students
Standards for middle/junior high school
Learning Standard 12C:
Know and apply concepts that describe properties of matter and energy
and the interactions between them.
12.C.3a Explain interactions of energy with matter with matter including
changes of state and conservation of mass and energy.
12.C.3b Model and describe the chemical and physical characteristics of
matter (e.g., atoms, molecules, elements, compounds, mixtures).
Learning Standard 13B:
Know and apply concepts that describe the interaction between science,
technology and society.
13.B.3b Identify important contributions to science and technology that
have been made by individuals and groups from various cultures.
Science Education Standards content standards for 5th-8th grade
Unifying Concepts and Processes Standard: Evidence, Models, and
Explanation; Constancy, Change, and Measurement
Content Standard A Science as Inquiry: Understandings about Scientific
• Different kinds of questions suggest different kinds of scientific
investigations. Some investigations involve observing and describing objects,
organisms, or events; some involve collecting specimens; some involve
experiments; some involve seeking more information; some involve discovery
of new objects and phenomena; and some involve making models.
• Mathematics is important in all aspects of scientific inquiry.
• Technology used to gather data enhances accuracy and allows scientists
to analyze and quantify results of investigations.
• Scientific explanations emphasize evidence, have logically consistent
arguments, and use scientific principles, models, and theories. The scientific
community accepts and uses such explanations until displaced by better
scientific ones. When such displacement occurs, science advances.
• Scientific investigations sometimes result in new ideas and phenomena
for study, generate new methods or procedures for an investigation, or
develop new technologies to improve the collection of data. All of these
results can lead to new investigations.
Content Standard B Physical Science: Transfer of Energy
• Energy is a property of many substances and is associated with
heat, light, electricity, mechanical motion, sound, nuclei, and the nature
of a chemical. Energy is transferred in many ways.
• Light interacts with matter by transmission (including refraction),
absorption, or scattering (including reflection). To see an object, light
from that object--emitted by or scattered from it--must enter the eye.
• Electrical circuits provide a means of transferring electrical
energy when heat, light, sound, and chemical changes are produced.
• In most chemical and nuclear reactions, energy is transferred
into or out of a system. Heat, light, mechanical motion, or electricity
might all be involved in such transfers.
Content Standard E Science and Technology: Understandings about
Science and Technology
• Many different people in different cultures have made and continue
to make contributions to science and technology.
• Science and technology are reciprocal. Science helps drive technology,
as it addresses questions that demand more sophisticated instruments and
provides principles for better instrumentation and technique. Technology
is essential to science, because it provides instruments and techniques
that enable observations of objects and phenomena that are otherwise unobservable
due to factors such as quantity, distance, location, size, and speed.
Technology also provides tools for investigations, inquiry, and analysis.
Content Standard F Science in Personal and Social Perspectives: Science
and Technology in Society
• Science and technology have advanced through contributions of
many different people, in different cultures, at different times in history.
Science and technology have contributed enormously to economic growth
and productivity among societies and groups within societies.
Content Standard G History and Nature of Science: Science as
• Women and men of various social and ethnic backgrounds--and with
diverse interests, talents, qualities, and motivations--engage in the
activities of science, engineering, and related fields such as the health
professions. Some scientists work in teams, and some work alone, but all
communicate extensively with others.
• Science requires different abilities, depending on such factors
as the field of study and type of inquiry. Science is very much a human
endeavor, and the work of science relies on basic human qualities, such
as reasoning, insight, energy, skill, and creativity--as well as on scientific
habits of mind, such as intellectual honesty, tolerance of ambiguity,
skepticism, and openness to new ideas.
Content Standard G History and Nature of Science: Nature of Science
• Scientists formulate and test their explanations of nature using
observation, experiments, and theoretical and mathematical models. Although
all scientific ideas are tentative and subject to change and improvement
in principle, for most major ideas in science, there is much experimental
and observational confirmation. Those ideas are not likely to change greatly
in the future. Scientists do and have changed their ideas about nature
when they encounter new experimental evidence that does not match their
Content Standard G History and Nature of Science: History of
• Many individuals have contributed to the traditions of science.
Studying some of these individuals provides further understanding of scientific
inquiry, science as a human endeavor, the nature of science, and the relationships
between science and society.
• In historical perspective, science has been practiced by different
individuals in different cultures. In looking at the history of many peoples,
one finds that scientists and engineers of high achievement are considered
to be among the most valued contributors to their culture.
• Tracing the history of science can show how difficult it was for
scientific innovators to break through the accepted ideas of their time
to reach the conclusions that we currently take for granted.