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You may have built a scale model of a car, or a scale model of a town using Legos®.  If you tried to create a scale model of an atom, however, you would have a very difficult time!  Why? 

The atom consists of three basic particles. The proton is positively charged and located in the center (or nucleus) of the atom. The neutron has no charge and is located in the center with the proton. The electron has a negative charge and orbits around the nucleus. The sizes of the particles in an atom are very different.   An electron is at least 10,000 times smaller than a proton.  Also, the entire atom is 10,000 times larger than the nucleus (remember that the atom is mostly empty space).

Imagine you are creating a model of a hydrogen atom.  If you represent the proton with a basketball, the electron would be 10 miles away and about the size of the period at the end of a sentence!  (The red arrow is pointing to the period.)If you created this model, you could fly a large jet through the atom and never hit the electron or the proton!


Think about this:

Electrons do not circle the nucleus in regular orbits like the planets circle the sun. Electrons are randomly located around the nucleus, traveling in different directions, and impossible to locate at any definite time.

The bees are to the beehive as electrons are to:
A. Molecules
B. Elements
C. Nucleus
D. Neutrons
C. Nucleus Highlight the box at the left to see the correct answer!

Review science safety rules here.

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Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 7th grade science core.

Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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