OR Protons, Neutrons, and Electrons, Oh my...
You see, we're studying chemistry this year. And of all the sciences-- of all the topics we could possibly cover in this amazing world-- chemistry is absolutely, without a doubt, my least favorite. By a mile. Back in college, in fact, I took my required second semester of this dreaded course in summer school-- 6 intense weeks instead of 4 grueling months. You do the math :)
With that being said, I'm now doing my best to embrace this ever-so-hated topic. I really am. I'm trying to look upon it with favor because as we all know, if the teacher ain't excited about her topic, her students won't be either. Thankfully, our co-op is covering chemistry during the science slot (and both Bub and Noh have very enthusiastic teachers), so our work at home is purely supplemental. Nevertheless, I'd like to tackle it twice a week, in addition to their co-op class, so that by the time Friday rolls around, both are fully prepared for new material (and hopefully I'll be ready, too :).
So where did we start?? Why at the very beginning, of course... with the atom, the most basic building block of all. And that's where the protons and neutrons and electrons, oh my enter the picture. Have you have tried to explain that concept to an 8 year old?? It's not easy. Trust me. Thankfully (again), we have a great text called Amazing Kitchen Chemistry which breaks new concepts down into very manageable-- and understandable-- chunks. And so far, even I'm getting it!
Here are two amazing facts we learned this week-- I bet ya didn't know either one!
- A single grain of sugar contains about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000-- or a quintillion-- molecules. If each molecule was the size of a penny, then a grain of sugar would be as wide and long as a football field, with pennies stacked almost 100,00 miles high. That would be alost halfway to the moon!
- The number of molecules you breathe in, in only one breath of air, is more than the number of grains of sand on the entire earth.
Cool, huh? And who said chemistry was awful?? Grin.
So, to illustrate our atom-- to really dig in and grasp the whole positive/negative/neutral charge thing-- we pulled out yet another tube of cookie dough from the refrig (because we're all cookie monsters here, and we relish the opportunity-- yes, we'll gladly make any excuse-- to bake another batch :)
To construct Oxygen, we needed 8 protons (decorated with green sprinkles... because green means go! and that's positive!), 8 white neutrons (because they're neutral), and 8 electrons (sprinkled with chocolate jimmies-- the closest thing we could think of to represent the negative charge carried by those guys).
We iced and sprinkled, and we arranged and we sampled (and luckily still ended up with enough cookie) until our atom was complete. Like our geography map, it's not a prefect rendering... but as we "built" our nucleus and as we set our electrons in orbit (unfortunately, cookies and icing don't vibrate in 3D-- to our knowledge-- so the rings just had to sit in one plane), everything clicked.
Atoms--check. Now we get them.
Next we move on to molecules. Wish us (er, uh... me) luck!