I decided to try something new this year with my Chem students: we made balloon orbitals! Below are some pictures and more information about this fun and short activity:
I had introduced the concept of orbitals to my students. As I was explaining them, I said they could picture them like balloons. Then it hit me: use balloons! I told my 1st period class my idea and they seemed very excited by the prospect of using (playing with) balloons. So, I did the math and realized I would need over 360 balloons for each group to make an s, p, d, f orbital. Yikes! I also thought of the space that would occupy and I know it would not work. So, I decided to go with two orbitals per group which would require less than 200! I went online and found bags of 100 for around 6 dollars each– sold!
I decided to approach this little mini intro activity very open-ended. I told my students that even groups would do the s and f orbitals and odd groups would do the p and d orbitals (my lab groups are numbered 1-8).
The only instructions I gave my students were which orbitals they would make, to grab a textbook and their chrome books to help them figure out what their orbitals should look like, and to make a sign for their orbitals. *See pictures at the end*
My students took on this little mini challenge with gusto and had so much fun! I learned quite a few things while doing this activity:
1. High school students love to play with balloons (a LOT!).
2. When balloons are involved, focus decreases exponentially, but enjoyment increases exponentially.
3. Don’t stick the balloons to the windows! As the sun came through the window later, one would pop randomly and scare the living daylights out of me! I would suspend them from the ceiling tiles next time for sure!
Although these orbitals could have more details, I think this activity served its purpose: to get them thinking about orbitals in a fun and hands-on way.
Students perspective: My students were so excited when I told them we were doing an activity with Balloons. Then, as the later classes came in, they saw the balloons and said “I heard we were doing a fun thing with balloons today! I’m so excited!”. Then, my former students who hang out in my room at lunch saw all of the balloon orbitals up and exclaimed “I wish we did that last year! That’s awesome!”.
I think it’s safe to say that this activity was a success!
Until next time,
-The Ardent Teacher