How to Make a Model of an Aluminum Atom for Students

As of 2010, there are 118 elements on the periodic table.
••• ATOM; image by Harald Soehngen from

An atom is a unit of matter that includes a dense central nucleus surrounded by negatively charged electrons. An atom is the basic building block and makeup of everyday objects -- even a chair, a desk and air are made up of atoms. Making a model of an aluminum atom can help students understand atoms, protons, and neutrons.

    Determine how many protons and neutrons the model should have, as well as how many levels of energy. Aluminum has 3 levels of energy, containing 13 protons/electrons and 14 neutrons.

    Cut three pieces of craft wire -- one large, one medium and one small -- or use pipe cleaners to create three rings in a later step.

    Create a nucleus using play dough or a Styrofoam ball. Pass the wire through it to mount it at the center of the atom.

    Make small balls from the play dough to represent each electron and mold it around the wire or pipe cleaner. Put 2 in the smaller, first ring, 8 in the middle, and 3 in the last, outside ring.

    Make a circle by joining the two ends of each craft wire or pipe cleaner, which will be an orbit.

    Hang the aluminum atom model from the ceiling using fishing line or string.

    Things You'll Need

    • Pipe cleaner or craft wire
    • Styrofoam balls
    • Play dough
    • Fishing line


    • You may want to have the students make the atom model themselves to help demonstrate that atoms are not two-dimensional entities.


    • Making an atom may be difficult for a student who has problems manipulating small objects.

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