Physics Van - Human Atoms
States of Matter
- A few Physics Van members
- Volunteers from the audience (a few more kids than Van members helping)
- Each person represents an atom.
- Atoms and molecules make up everything around us, in other words, matter.
- "Molecule" may be a new word to some kids. Just say a molecule is a few
atoms stuck together in a group, and it acts pretty much like an atom.
- Solids: The atoms are held together tightly (locked arms) and cannot move around much.
- Liquids: When the atoms get heated up, they don't hold onto each other as tightly
(holding hands). The atoms can slosh around more freely.
- Gases: When the atoms are heated even more, they eventually let go completely and
are free to move all over the place (running around unchecked).
- When the atoms are running around the room, notice that they take up much more space
than when they were liquids or solids.
- Make sure that Van members make up the ends of the atom line. This
way you make sure the line doesn't whip around and knock people over.
- Gas phase: the kids tend to get a little rowdy. It's best to keep this part short and
try to minimize the amount of bumping into each other.
Things to talk about:
- Tell them we want to talk about "stuff". Matter
is just a scientist's way of describing all the stuff around us.
- We know of three common types of matter. Ask the kids if they can name the three
- Ask for or give examples of each kind (i.e. ice, water, steam).
- Now you need to collect some volunteers.
- Explain that all matter (solids, liquids, and gases) is made up of tiny pieces
called atoms and molecules.
- You could mention that if you cut stuff up into smaller and smaller pieces, the smallest
piece you can get is an atom.
- Mention that some things are made up of molecules, which are just groups of atoms stuck
together. Each molecule acts kind of like an atom.
- Tell them that each of the volunteers in the line is going to be an atom.
- Have the atoms link arms and hold on tightly. Tell the audience that they are now a
solid, and they can't move around much, like real solids.
- Now talk about what happens when you add heat to the atoms. Have the atoms hold hands,
and slosh around, like a liquid.
- Add even more heat, and explain that the atoms are now going to be a gas. Tell the atoms
to let go of each other and move around. Make sure the audience notices that a gas
takes up much more space than a liquid or solid.
- Thank your helpers and have them sit back down.
Click here for the Adobe PDF version of this demo (text only), for printing purposes.