What is Stuff Made Of?

Matter is made of minute particles called atoms and atoms are comprised of even smaller components


You know that you’re surrounded by stuff – stuff that you can see and stuff that you can’t see.  We already know that there are trillions of bacteria, viruses, animals, plants, and fungi around.  And we can see and touch all of those other things that make up our world: chairs, desks, pens, pencils, gum that someone dropped on the ground, a note from that cute boy/girl, etc.  Plus, there’s even the air around us that’s made up of stuff.  All of this stuff is ultimately made up of atoms, so let’s start there.

          Atom comes from a Greek word that means “cannot be divided.”  Unluckily for the Greeks, we now know that we can split atoms, but that’s a completely different story.  However, the first scientists to discover the atoms in the world around us started to try to figure out what it all meant.  So they organized the atoms by their elemental form, in a table.  This become, thanks to a certain Mr. Mendeleev, the Periodic Table of the Elements.

          If you understand the Periodic Table of the Elements thoroughly, you can actually sound very smart.  The columns of the Periodic Table all have elements that are in the same family (or group) and share very similar properties.  Gold, silver and copper are all in the same family.  Neon, argon, krypton, and xenon are all in the same family and are used in “neon” fluorescent lights.  The rows of the periodic table also show patterns.  There are certain properties of elements that change in a predictable way over a period.

          How is the order of the periodic table determined?  Well, all atoms have inside of them several different kinds of particles.  The ones that we’re most concerned about are protons, neutrons, and electrons.  Neutrons are the heaviest particles and have no charge, while protons are slightly lighter but have a positive charge.  You can find neutrons and protons in the nucleus of an atom.  But you won’t find electrons anywhere near the nucleus.  Electrons are way outside the nucleus and are found in “energy levels” around the nucleus.  This sounds complicated, but basically you can’t predict exactly where an electron is going to be at any one time, but you know it has to be in a certain region.  Electrons have almost no mass and have a negative charge.

          However, the most important of these particles is the proton.  Sorry, neutron.  Sorry, little electrons.  You know, you’re cute and everything, but you’re no match for the mighty positive proton.  Just by an atom gaining or losing a proton, all of the properties of the entire atom change.  In fact, you can turn hydrogen into helium by giving hydrogen one more proton; oxygen turns into useless nitrogen with one less proton; gold becomes worthless as ??? with one more proton.  It’s a good thing this doesn’t happen often, which is probably why scientists decided that the number of protons would equal the atomic number.

            So now you can look at an element on the Periodic Table and instantly determine how many protons it has: Carbon, with a chemical symbol of C has 6, hydrogen (H) has 1, and Uranium (U) has 92 protons.  Bam!  Now onto another number on the Periodic Table, the number on the bottom.  This is the atomic weight, which means that amount that the average atom of that element weighs.  This number is determined by averaging out the weights of all of the different types of each kind of atom.  It is slightly different than the atomic mass, which you can find by adding up the number of protons and neutrons for a particular atom.

          Depending on the family (or group) that an atom is found in, then its electron configuration will be slightly different.  Reading from left to right, every time you start a period, that element has one electron in the last energy level.  For the first three periods, every time you go one atom to the right, then you add another electron.  For example, lithium has 1 electron in the last energy level, beryllium has 2, boron has 3, carbon 4, nitrogen 5, oxygen 6, fluorine 7 and neon 8.

  1. Define:
    1. Anion
    2. Cation
    3. Ionic Bond
    4. Valence Electron
  2. What is an ion? Explain.
  3. Where in the atom do electrons come from in order to make an ion?
  4. Complete the reactions (ex.: H+ + Cl- → HCl):
    1. H+ + Br- → _____
    2. H+ + S2- → _____
    3. Mg2+ + Cl- → _____
    4. Mg2+ + S2- → _____
    5. Al3+ + N3- → _____
    6. H+ + P3- → _____
    7. Ca2+ + Cl- → _____
  5. Complete the reactions:
    1. _____ + _____ → NaCl
    2. _____ + _____ → MgCl2
    3. _____ + _____ → Na2O
  6. Using a periodic table, write out the full reactions:
    1. Potassium and fluorine
    2. Calcium and fluorine
    3. Hydrogen and oxygen
    4. Magnesium and nitrogen
  7. Draw the electron configurations for:
    1. K
    2. K+
    3. F-
    4. O2-
    5. Mg2+
    6. H+
  8. Complete the table:
    Element H Li Be F Na Cl Ar
    Gains or loses?
    How many?
  9. What do these numbers have to do with the group that the element is found in the periodic table?
Periodic Table
  1. You will be assigned an element from the periodic table.  Using three periodic tables, you will draw and label this element from each periodic table.  This means that you should have three different drawings!  Periodic tables can be found in the front of the room and at the following websites:
  2. Your drawings should include as much of the following information as possible:
    • Chemical symbol
    • Atomic number
    • Atomic mass
    • Atomic weight
    • Electron configuration
    • Physical properties
  3. For each of the terms that you labeled in the drawings, define the term in your own words (from #2).
  4. Make an element on a quarter-sheet of construction paper that we can hang up in the room. Include the chemical symbol, name, atomic number and atomic weight.
Balancing Reactions

You will need an atomic model set to complete this assignment.  Keep in mind that there needs to be the same amount of each atom before and after the reaction; build, sketch and balance the following equations:

  1. H → H2
  2. O → O2
  3. O2 → O3
  4. H2 + O2 → H2O
  5. CH4 + O2 → CO2 + H2O
  6. H2 + N2 → NH3
  7. Al + CuO → Al2O3 + Cu
  8. Al + O2 → Al2O3
  9. (NH4)2CO3 → NH3 + CO2 + H2O
  10. Mg + O2 → MgO
  11. H2SO4 + Pb(OH)4 → Pb(SO4)2 + H2O
  12. NO2 → N2O4
  13. CO + H2 → CH3OH
  14. NO + O2 → NO2
  15. NH3 + O2 → NO + H2O
  16. C3H8 + O2 → CO2 + H2O
  17. KMnO4 + HCl → KCl + MnCl2 + H2O + Cl2
Chemical Formulas

The central atom in a compound (if there is one) is what everything else is bound to.  There is no central atom in compounds that only have two atoms, like NaCl.  However, in H2O and NH3, the central atoms are O and N, respectively.

Build, draw and label: 1.  LiF

 2.  H2S

 3.  CaCl2

 4.  ScF3

 5.  K3P

After you figure out what compound these create, build, draw and label: 6.  magnesium and chlorine

 7.  beryllium and sulfur

 8.  calcium and bromine

 9.  sodium and phosphorous

 10.               carbon and oxygen

Water & Heat

Trial 1:

  1. Pour about 250 mL of water into a beaker.
  2. Decide on a high temperature to heat the water and turn on the heat at the same time that you start a timer.
  3. Mark down the time that it starts to simmer (small bubbles form).
  4. Mark down the time that all of the water is boiling.

Trial 2:

  1. Let the hot plate where you boiled the water cool down to room temperature (or find a second hot plate that is cool).
  2. Using the same amount of water, add 50 grams of salt, and repeat the experiment, as in trial 1.


  1. When trial #2 started to boil, did it have more or less heat than #1?
  2. What does this tell you about the effect of salt on the boiling point of water?
Elements of the Periodic Table
  1. Define in your own words:
    1. Atomic number
    2. Atomic mass
    3. Atomic weight
    4. Electron configuration
    5. Chemical symbol
    6. Period
    7. Group
  2. Copy and complete the table:
      Location in atom Charge Weight (in amu)
  3. Copy & complete:
    Name Symbol Mass # of p+ # of n0
    Carbon   12    
      B 11    
      Ca     22
    Neon       18
Physical Properties
  1. Density: From the front of the room, find each of the following: cooking oil, rubbing alcohol, water and corn syrup.  Get a glass beaker, and do the following:
    1. Make a prediction about what will happen when you pour the oil, alcohol, water and corn syrup into the glass beaker together.
    2. One by one, pour 20 mL of each of the four liquids into the beaker.  Record your observations and the results of this experiment.
    3. Was your prediction correct?  Why or why not?
    4. The reason that these different liquids separated was because they have different densities.  Use one of the science books or the internet to you to look up the definition of density, then define it in your own words.
  2. pH: From the front of the room, get three mystery liquids to test. You will test the pH of these liquids, which means that you will determine how acidic, basic or neutral these liquids are. Common acids  have a pH below 7.0 and include vinegar, orange juice and carbonic acid (which makes pop fizzy). Common bases have a pH above 7.0 and include milk, baking soda, and hair relaxer. Water is neutral (7.0).
    1. To test the pH of these mystery liquids, you will need to start with a piece of pH paper that tests whether the liquid is acidic, basic or neutral. It should test the range around 7.0.
    2. Once you’ve determined whether the pH is above or below 7.0, get a second strip of pH paper to determine a lower or higher range.
    3. Use a third strip of pH paper to determine the exact pH, if necessary.
    4. Repeat a through c for each of the three mystery liquids. Make your guess as to what each of the mystery liquids is.
    5. Sketch a pH scale. Label the values 0 through 14, and shade the range that is acidic in red, and the range that is basic in blue. Include your mystery liquids on the scale.
  3. Hardness & Color: Obtain five rocks from the front of the room. Do the following for each rock:
    1. Make observations about the color of each rock.  Try and describe with as many details the colors of each rock.
    2. Test the hardness of each rock by scratching it with the following:
      • Your fingernail (Hardness = 1)
      • A penny (Hardness = 2)
      • A glass plate (Hardness = 5)
      • If the fingernail scratches the rock, then it has a hardness of 1, if the penny causes the rock to scratch, then it has a hardness of 2, etc.  If nothing scratches the rock (if the rock scratches the glass), then the hardness is greater than 5.
pH of Household Chemicals

Perform an experiment to answer the question, “What is the approximate pH of three household chemicals?”  You will need several pH strips in order to complete this assignment.  You must make a hypothesis for each chemical that you test (whether you think it will be an acid, base, neutral AND why).  You must include the colors of the resulting pH strips in your results section, as well as saying whether these substances are acids or bases and their pH (7, less than 7 or greater than 7).

  1. What is your hypothesis or hypotheses?
  2. What is the independent variable?
  3. What is the dependent variable?
  4. Perform the experiment.
  5. How many times did you repeat the experiment?
  6. Represent the data in appropriate tables, charts and graphs.
  7. Why did you get the results that you did?  Explain in terms of concepts that you needed to know in order to do this lab.
  8. Was your hypothesis supported?  Why or why not?
  9. How could your hypothesis be modified to find out even more information?


Dissolving Salt

“What is the highest percentage of salt that can be dissolved completely in water?”

You will answer the above question by designing an experiment to determine the percentage of salt in the water that the water can hold.  You will know that you have reached this point when salt begins to accumulate on the bottom of the container that you are using.

Before you begin, determine the following pieces of information:

  • Water: Determine the amount of water, in mL that you will be using throughout the experiment. Note that you will be given a beaker or flask that can hold about 300 mL of water. Using less water means that you will not have to use as much salt (so the experiment will be faster), but using more water means that you could get more precise results. 
  • Salt: You should measure the salt with a graduated cylinder, since you are measuring the volume of salt. You should choose an amount to add in every time you add salt. The higher the amount of salt that you add each time, the less time the experiment will take, but it will be less precise.
  • Measurements: After every time you add salt to the mixture, make sure to mix the salt and water well. You need to keep adding salt to the water until it’s completely saturated (the salt collects at the bottom). Do not get rid of your mixture until you’ve reached this point.
  • Trials: A trial in this experiment is over when you have added as much salt as you can to the water and it still dissolves. A trial is not every time you add another dose of salt to the water. Make sure to repeat the experiment at least twice (two trials) so you can confirm your results. The second time that you do the experiment, you should have a better idea of where to start.
  • Data: Keep track of your data in a table. This table should have one column for each trial and one row for each dose of salt. Keep a running total of how much salt you have added to the water.
  1. What is your hypothesis or hypotheses?
  2. What is the independent variable?
  3. What is the dependent variable?
  4. Do the experiment.
  5. How many times did you repeat the experiment?
  6. Represent the data in appropriate tables, charts and graphs. Calculate the percentage of salt using the following formula: (mL of salt / mL of water) x 100 = percentage
  7. Why did you get the results that you did?  Explain in terms of concepts that you needed to know in order to do this lab.
  8. Was your hypothesis supported?  Why or why not?
  9. How could your hypothesis be modified to find out even more information?
States of Matter
  1. What are the four states of matter?  For each one give one example.
  2. Complete the following chart with the name of the process that converts the states on both sides of the arrows, in the direction shown (melting has been filled in for you):

  1. In degrees Celsius, give the range of temperatures for each phase of water:
    1. Solid:
    2. Liquid:
    3. Gas:

Fold a piece of paper to make a “mini-book”.  Ask me or a student to show you how to do this.  Title your book “Stars” and then title each page, in order:

  • Protostar
  • High-mass stars
  • Low-mass stars
  • Red giants
  • White dwarfs
  • Nova

For each page:

  1. Describe this type of star in your own words
  2. How big is this star, on a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being high)?
  3. How hot is this star, on a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being high)?

On the last page, make a graph with the size of the star on the y-axis and the temperature of the star on the x-axis.  Separate the entire area in the graph into sections which correspond to where you would find each type of star.

Weather Introduction
  1. Define:

    1. Temperature
    2. Barometer
    3. Relative Humidity
    4. Dew Point
    5. Humidity
    6. High Pressure System
    7. Low Pressure System
  2. Complete with approximate values:
    Weather Temp (F) Relative Humidity (%) Dew Point (F)
    Frost   95 28.5
    Fog 50   50
    Clear 65 50  
    Muggy 90   81
    Windstorm   25 5
  3. Which is associated with “good weather”: A high-pressure or low-pressure system?  Why?
  4. Find out the current weather, air pressure, temperature, humidity and dew point!
Alien Periodic Table


You are a part of a collection of scientists who have been chosen to assist a group of alien scientists. In order to be able to converse scientifically, you must learn their language, and most importantly, you must arrange their elements according to the trends that exist in the periodic table. Below are clues for the alien’s elements. So far, the aliens have only discovered elements in groups 1, 2, and 13-18, and periods 1-5. Although the names of the elements are different, they must correspond to our elements if our belief of universal elements holds true. Read each clue carefully, and then place the symbol for that clue’s element in the blank periodic table provided.

Alien Periodic Table

  1. Livium (Lv): This element is responsible for life. It has 2 electron energy levels and 4 electrons available for bonding in the outermost energy level.
  2. Computerchipium (Cc): This element is important for its use as a semiconductor in computers.
  3. Lightium (L): This is the lightest of elements; aliens used to use it in their aircraft until their aircraft caught fire in a horrific accident.
  4. Breathium (Br): When combined with Lightium (L), it makes the alien’s most common liquid whose formula is L2Br.
  5. Francium (F): A metal found in period 4 group 13.
  6. Moonium (Mo): An element with an atomic number of 34.
  7. Explodium (Ex): This element is the most reactive metal on the alien’s table.
  8. Violetium (V): This element is found as part of a compound in bananas. When burned, it has a violet colored flame.
  9. Sparkium (Sp) and Burnium (Bu) are members of the alkali metal group, along with Violetium(V) and Explodium (Ex). Their reactivity, from least to greatest, is Sp, Bu, V, Ex.
  10. Balloonium (Ba): A noble gas used to fill balloons.
  11. Toothium (To): This element is added to juices to help build strong bones and teeth.
  12. Metalloidium (M) and Poisonium (Po): Two metalloids found in period 4. Po is the more massive than M.
  13. Lowigium (Lo): A period 4 halogen.
  14. Darkbluium(Dk): Has an atomic mass of 115.
  15. Hugium (Hu): The element on the alien’s periodic table that has the most mass.
  16. Glucinium (Gl): The element found in period 2, group 2.
  17. Reactinium (Re): The most reactive non-metal on the periodic table.
  18. Balloonium (Ba), Signium (Si), Stableium (Sb), Supermanium (Sm), and Hugium (Hu) are all noble gases. They are arranged above from least to most massive.
  19. Cannium (Cn): This element helps to preserve foods; it is used in can manufacturing.
  20. Burnium (Bu), Blue-whitium (Bw), Bauxitium (Xi), Computerchipsium (Cc), Bringer-of-lightium (Bl), Stinkium (Sk), Purium (P), and Stableium (Sb) are all found in period 3. Bu has 1 electron in its outer energy level, Bw has 2, Xi has 3, Cc has 4, Bl has 5, Sk has 6, P has 7 and Sb has 8.
  21. Scottishium (Sc): A metal element found in group 2.
  22. Infectium (If): This element, mixed with alcohol, is used on cuts.
  23. Abundantcium (Ab): One of the most abundant gasses in the universe. It has 7 protons, 7 neutrons, and 7 electrons.
  24. Some additional clues: The number after the symbol indicates the number of electrons in the outer energy level: Notalonium(Na): 5 Earthium (E): 6 Boracium (B): 3
CSI: Shaw – Case of the Cookie Mystery

By James Watson

CSI: Shaw needs your help! The fundraiser for the Winter athletics teams is a special holiday cookies bake sale. A spy from Heights has snuck into the kitchen and dumped all the dry baking ingredients from their labeled containers onto the counter top.

CSI: Shaw has collected small samples of four white powders from the labeled containers in the kitchen. The four powders are the ingredients for the cookies, but they are not enough to make the cookies. All of the ingredients were dumped on a counter into six huge piles by the hater from Heights.

Powder Testing Procedure

Important: Each person should test only one powder at a time! DO NOT ALLOW SAMPLES TO MIX TOGETHER!

You will be given SIX mystery samples and four known samples. For each sample, do the following:

  1. Place 3 small samples of your powder (about half the size of a dime) on a piece of wax paper. Place the wax paper on a paper towel to prevent messes.
  2. Describe your powder sample and write your observations in the table below.
  3. Add 4 to 5 drops of vinegar to the second pile and mix using a clean toothpick. Record your observations in the chart (e.g., fizz, no reaction, etc.).
  4. CAUTION: Iodine will stain clothing, hands, and anything it touches! Add 4 to 5 drops of iodine to the third pile, and mix using a clean toothpick. Record your observations in the table (e.g., black, brown, no reaction, etc.).
  5. CAUTION: Use care when working with heat! Long hair must be tied back. Sleeves must be rolled up. Keep papers (and anything flammable) away from the flame. Goggles must be worn, since the powder may melt and splatter! For the heat test, place a small amount of powder on a clean square of aluminum foil. Bend the edges up to create a “cup” and hold onto it using a pair of tongs or tweezers. Place the sample on the hot plate for a few seconds. Record your observations in the table.
  6. Clean up the area before moving on to the next sample and also after you are completely finished!
Sample Description Vinegar Test Iodine Test Heat Test
Mystery Sample #1
Mystery Sample #2
Mystery Sample #3
Mystery Sample #4
Mystery Sample #5
Mystery Sample #6

Analysis for each of the six mystery substances:

  1. What evidence do you have the suggests it is one or more of the known powders?
  2. Which powder(s) is this mystery substance?
  3. How certain are you? Could you do another test or a different test to be more certain?