Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chemistry for Kids, Part 1

Apparently a natural glutton for punishment, I challenged myself to teach Chemistry to 4-7 year-olds in our co-op for 6 weeks, and the task of coming up with simplified lesson plans didn't disappoint. 

Good news is, I navigated through all the rough spots and pulled from my good 'ol science background just so I could share what I compiled and taught with other teaching mamas who would be so bold as to brave such a subject with the littles. 

Even more good news: the kids loved it! The Activities we did along with this lesson are in a separate post to cut down on length.

Over the next 6 weeks, every Thursday, I'll be posting my lesson plan for the week, along with links I referenced along with other sources to give credit where credit is due- and I ask that you please do the same if you use these. Be sure to check back in for more Chem fun!

Lesson 1/Week 1: Introduction to Chemistry
Person of the Week: August Kekule (German) & Archibald Scott Couper (Scottish)
What they did: In 1858 August Kekulé (1829–1896) and Archibald Scott Couper (1831–1892), two young men from different backgrounds, independently recognized that carbon atoms can link directly to one another to form carbon chains. They both had daydreams that Carbon atoms did some sort of happy dance together, holding "hands". This meant that other elements could follow the same rule.

What is Matter?
  • Everything is made up of matter except energy, 6 types (light, heat, sound- for now; nuclear, electrical & mechanical- for later, advanced class).
  • Matter has mass, mass has weight when gravity pulls down on it. To demonstrate, hold up a heavy, dense ball & a lightweight ball of the same size for comparison and let the kids hold them as well to conceptualize that there are so many little parts, or atoms, in the denser ball that gravity has more to pull down on.
  • States of matter are Solid, Liquid, Gas and Plasma.
  • Almost everything (matter) is made up of atoms and when atoms join together they become molecules (different) or elements (same).
  • A lot of one type of atom gives us elements (ex. copper, aluminum, carbon)
  • Atoms are made up of Protons, Electrons & Neutrons, (have kids repeat the words back) Introduce the Periodic Table just so they perhaps will recognize it when they see it again. Discuss: It's like a map through the elements
  • Atoms are made up of smaller parts called protons, neutrons in the center and elections that orbit the center just like the earth orbits the sun.
  • Show them common things they'll encounter such as O-we breathe it, He-makes balloons float, is lighter than air, Al- Foil, Fe- Ferris Wheel building material, Cu-a penny or some electrical wire, Ti-Titanium shears, blades only, so they know the little letters and squares have meaning and make sense. I brought in Titanium shears, a penny, and a piece of aluminum foil in a Ziploc bag as a visual. Explain that ONLY Al is in the foil, nothing else (for all intents and purposes), Ti in the blades of the fabric shears, and Cu in the penny.
  • Draw helium atom on white board (below) and show how it correlates to the periodic table. (2e, 2p, 2n) explain that the nucleus is at the center and it's very heavy. Explain that a bunch of these Helium atoms are what make balloons float and stay up, and even though we can't see it, we know it's there because they float. Can even mention that Protons are positive and are the opposite of Electrons (ex. hot/cold, dark/light, positive/negative), which are negative and neutrons stay out of it, are neutral. P's and E's balance each other out so the atom is happy.
  • Explain: It's hard for scientists to see or take pictures of atoms because they are so small but they have made models to show what they look like so the rest of us can "see" them.
The atom is mentioned in the Qur'an when Allah says "Then anyone who has done an atom's weight of good shall see it!" Al Zalzalah 99:7

Helium Atom
Image source:

In a nutshell: Protons + Neutrons + Electrons(make up)-->Atoms(make up)-->Molecules (different atoms bonded together) and Elements (same atoms bonded together)

Lesson 1/Week 1- Introduction to Chemistry Links


  1. You were definitely a Science major weren't you? LOL Hey Kim! This is Lynette (Barri's friend Kyle's wife). Barri introduced me to your blog since Kyle would like me to homeschool our kids (which is at least 3 years off since KJ is only 14 months old and the one in my stomach isn't due for 2 more months). But my hubby figures with the 18 years of teaching experience why not use it for my own kids at home. We are contemplating me being a SAHM after this baby since I went back to work when KJ was 4.5 months. So I have read your blog with great interest (as one who spent 3 years as an elementary science teacher and even started a Master's in Teaching Science but stopped after 21 credits to switch to a much more appealing Masters in Technology program). Anyway, I told Barri to tell you I will definitely be following along now that I know you are here. This Chemistry lesson reminds me of one I did with 10 year olds using Fruit Loops to learn the Periodic Table and representation of atoms. So many good memories!

  2. Hey Lynette! Yes, total Science nerd/lover and I'm trying to brainwash just about anybody who'll listen, LOL!

    I LOVE homeschooling, plain and simple. It can be as fun or as grueling as you make it, I'm coming to find out. There's lots of support out there and I belong to a few local groups that help keep us active and in better touch with the world, (not that we're isolated, home is just sooo comfy sometimes).

    If you need any help getting started, someone to talk to, or are just plain shakin' in your boots, please feel free to call or message me (ask Barri for my info, don't wanna post it here). I also had some experience teaching but was still intimidated by the huge undertaking of being my kids' sole teacher. Not sure how you feel about it, but I'd love to hear. Thanks for following and checking out my blog, don't forget to check out the other pages, as well! Talk to you soon;^)


Do you have a comment, question or suggestion to share?