One day I discovered that my 7-year old son could grasp Atomic Theory!
I knew this because I’d been teaching Chemistry and Physics for 28 years, and could spot scientific understanding when I saw it. Intrigued, I visited my son’s class at Ithaca Creek State School in Brisbane, and discovered that his mates also got it. Indeed, many of them were already au fait with Atomic Theory, having picked up pieces of information on TV, magazines, and even in the playground.
But not in the classroom– because we educators have assumed that they can’t get it. I then envisaged that primary schools might harness our young people’s untapped intelligence and enthusiasm by introducing modern science to them much earlier. After all, the Periodic Table is a kind of alphabet, so it’s best taught young. And just like the letters of the alphabet can build words and stories, the symbols of the Periodic Table can build chemical formulas and the whole world!
With click-by-click PowerPoint lessons:
PowerPoint presentations enable primary teachers and parents to teach their students through a guided lesson complete with text, images, videos and activities. It’s like teaching auto-pilot, which is great for beginner teachers who don’t have a science background. Teacher background information, as well as the answers to questions are also provided to put you in complete control of your lesson.
You can download the Click And Teach Lesson 1 here.
You can view the Click And Teach Lesson 1 as a web page here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/e/2PACX-1vTpjjJJVn8YAPGlfyZW9U7ilvDrOql6gL74RL-mb269xe2UjI58YNOeY_UiTfZnmLdGdhvYmFQoK9T4/pub?start=true&loop=false&delayms=3000
The Size of an Atom
The Periodic Table
This website shows primary school teachers and parents how to
teach Atomic Theory to their kids from 4 years of age.
No experience necessary.
With tried-and-tested lesson plans:
Making H2O molecules
Year 1 students learn how to build
molecules with magnetic models
Years 3 and 4 students understand high
school physics and chemistry
Class enthusiasm is palpable
Sorting beads as atoms
Drawing atoms as dots
With innovative hands-on resources:
Kit of real elements with scales
5 real elements in hand
Airzooka shows air is matter
For testing conductivity
Element strip (free)
Lets students see plant cells
StickyAtom models join atoms together magnetically to form molecules.
Methane cooks food
and fuels cars
Students learn the key molecules of life.
The breathe in oxygen.
And breathe out carbon dioxide.
Over 30 animated videos:
States of Matter
Protons, electrons and neutrons
Evidence Based Teaching Method
I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with Dr Jennifer Donovan and Dr Carole Haeusler from the University of Southern Queensland, who designed research and collected data from Year 3 and Year 4 Brisbane primary schools during an intervention which introduced Atomic Theory. In particular, they were interested in finding out whether students could understand Atomic Structure- that is, how atoms are composed of protons, electrons and neutrons- and whether they could meaningfully apply their understanding to macroscopic world.
Dr Carole Haeusler and Dr Jennifer Donovan
University of Southern Queensland
Dr Donovan and Dr Haeusler’s describe their four key breakthrough findings:
“Firstly, primary school children aged 8 and 9 years can understand Atomic Theory at a surprisingly high level. In about 10 hours of instruction, they gain understandings more robust than those reported in the literature for 14-year-old children (when atomic theory is in the curriculum) and several boasted they helped their Year 9 siblings with their chemistry homework!
Secondly, they love it. Particularly the Periodic Table of the Elements, they are passionate about it and one even said ‘It’s the alphabet of the Universe’. Wow, that amazed us.
Thirdly, in every school we found at least one little bright spark who already knew a LOT about Atomic Theory that they had found out all by themselves. The depth and breadth of this knowledge also amazed us and their questions put us on the spot to answer them. Teachers, we need to encourage these minds and all the others too. Even children with learning difficulties enjoyed the program and learned a lot.
Fourthly, we have done research with a generalist primary teacher who decided she wanted to teach this for herself. We did one morning of PD for all the teachers at the school, helped her obtain the resources from Ian, and provided minimal extra support (this website didn’t exist then). Our recent findings, about to be published, show that for the sections of the program that she taught, her results were just as good as those obtained when Ian taught them. That was a wonderful breakthrough as we cannot clone Ian and send him to every school (much as we’d like to). So teachers, you CAN do it. All it takes is enthusiasm, and working with the resources here. Your children can benefit from the mind-stretching that learning about Atomic Theory offers. They’ll love it! ”
8-year old elementary school student near Manila, Philippines.
Dr Donovan’s and Dr Haeusler’s research papers
Haeusler, C. & Donovan, J. (2017). Challenging the science curriculum paradigm: Teaching primary children atomic-molecular theory. Research in Science Education. doi 10.1007/s11165-017-9679-2 (winner of publication award, 2018)
Donovan, J., & Haeusler, C. (2015). Developing scientific literacy: Introducing primary aged children to atomic-molecular theory. In E. de Silva (Ed.), Cases on research-based teaching methods in science education. (pp. 30-63). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Donovan, J., Haeusler, C., & Venville, G. (2015) Making meaning with models. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, 2(2), available at http://www.virginiaresearchinstitute.org/international-journal-of-multidisciplinary-research-journal-papers/
Further research is under way and the data and analysis is currently undergoing publication.
The ABC’s 7:30 Report covering the Atomic Theory intervention
at Ithaca Creek State School in Brisbane, Australia, in 2012.