Bond with James: October 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Electron Configuration

I am late sharing this; however, it's better late than never. This is something that was shared by a former colleague of mine, Ms. Julia Sloan. I thought it was a great way to visually represent e- configuration to help students with the concept.  The following rules for assigning electron orbitals can be applied:

1. The Aufbau Principle 
Aufbau, which comes from the German word aufbauen, means to build up or arrange.  This particular principle states that electrons occupy the lowest available energy orbital.   The large poster, with the cups attached and arrow on the side, is a great visualization of this principle.

2. The Pauli Exclusion Principle
This principle is based states that a maximum of two electrons can occupy an orbital; however the electrons must have opposite spins. You could use blank dominoes or other pieces to illustrate this as shown in the picture above.  

3. Hund's Rule:
This rule is based on the concept that electrons repel one another. Therefore, orbitals in a sub-level are first occupied by a single electron prior to the addition of an another electron with an opposite spin (see # 2 above).  Of course the pom poms in the cup don't show this in the picture here, however, students would still need to place an "electron" in each cup first prior to pairing them together.  You could stand from afar and observe students to determine if they understood how this rule is applied. 

The materials:
  • White butcher paper and markers.
  • Craft pom poms can be ordered online or at a local craft store.  These will serve as electrons.
  • Clear plastic cups - used to hold the electrons.
  • Velcro- used to adhere the cups to the butcher paper. 
  • Of course you could always substitute and create your own version. 
Depending on your resources, you could create one for the class or create one per group and have students work together to complete a few problems. This is a great way to introduce the topic - whether it be a lecture and/or a student activity. I know this would have helped me as a student due to the visual and hands-on approach; as well as the fact that I would have had fun learning at the same time. 

What are your thoughts concerning this hands-on way to teach electron configuration? Feel free to share your answer or ideas in the Comments Section below.