Visualizing Molecules in Motion

Thane Lewis
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In this lab, students will explore the motion of molecules, the forces involved in making them move and predict the level of interaction that molecules can have in order to better understand chemical reactions.

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Learning Goals

1. Students will learn that chemical interactions are highly random
2. Students will observe that chemical reactions require specific energy in order to proceed
3. Students will explore the processes that affect the frequency and success of molecular interactions.

Context for Use

This lab is well suited to introducing the concept of molecules or atoms prior to classroom teaching of physical science or chemistry. It will equally work to illustrate the principles and relationships between mass and velocity in physical science.

Subject: Chemistry:General Chemistry:Bonding & Molecules, Chemical Reactions
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity
Grade Level: High School (9-12), Middle (6-8)

Description and Teaching Materials

This lab requires a collection of round objects (balls) or other objects and containers with flat bottoms and rigid sides.
The lab will work most effectively when each group has a collection of objects with different masses, sizes and compositions. Groups can mix-match to explore the concepts of mixtures.

This lab activity can be located online at: Mini Lab - Visualizing Molecules in Motion (Microsoft Word 21kB Aug3 09)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This lab might be best used as a guided inquiry prior to teaching concepts of molecular motion and molecular interaction in chemistry. The instructor should provide as little direct instruction as possible to allow students to develop their own methods of conducting the lab and answering the questions. Refer to for general instructions on conducting mini-labs.


Student responses to questions asked in the lab instructions and final question will provide a clear picture of student's understanding of molecular motion and factors that affect molecular motion.



References and Resources