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This interactive activity helps learners visualize the role of electrons in the formation of ionic and covalent chemical bonds. Students explore different types of chemical bonds by first viewing a single hydrogen atom in an electric field model. Next, students use sliders to change the electronegativity between two atoms -- a model to help them understand how atoms attract electrons. Finally, students experiment in making their own models: non-polar covalent, polar covalent, and ionic bonds.

See Related Materials for a Teacher's Guide developed specifically to accompany this activity.

This item is part of the Concord Consortium, a nonprofit research and development organization dedicated to transforming education through technology. The Concord Consortium develops deeply digital learning innovations for science, mathematics, and engineering.

Please note that this resource requires Java.
Editor's Note: This resource is particularly effective because it helps learners visualize why electrons are the key to formation of ionic and covalent bonds. This activity will help them build a correct understanding within the construct of an orbital model. It was developed for a Physics First curriculum, but could also be great for introductory chemistry or conceptual physics courses.
View the supplemental document attached to this resource
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Technology
= Multimedia
Modern Physics
- Atomic Physics
= Atomic Models
= Electron Properties
Other Sciences
- Chemistry
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Curriculum support
= Interactive Simulation
= Model
= Problem/Problem Set
= Tutorial
- Audio/Visual
= Illustration
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- Assessment
- New teachers
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© 2008 The Concord Consortium
atom simulations, atomic simulations, atomic structure, atomic/molecular, collection, covalent bonds, electron models, electron simulations, intermolecular attractions, ionic bonds, molecular simulations, molecular structure, molecule simulations
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created May 16, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
October 4, 2013 by Caroline Hall

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4D. The Structure of Matter
  • 6-8: 4D/M1a. All matter is made up of atoms, which are far too small to see directly through a microscope.
  • 9-12: 4D/H1. Atoms are made of a positively charged nucleus surrounded by negatively charged electrons. The nucleus is a tiny fraction of the volume of an atom but makes up almost all of its mass. The nucleus is composed of protons and neutrons which have roughly the same mass but differ in that protons are positively charged while neutrons have no electric charge.
  • 9-12: 4D/H2. The number of protons in the nucleus determines what an atom's electron configuration can be and so defines the element. An atom's electron configuration, particularly the outermost electrons, determines how the atom can interact with other atoms. Atoms form bonds to other atoms by transferring or sharing electrons.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
  • 9-12: 11B/H5. The behavior of a physical model cannot ever be expected to represent the full-scale phenomenon with complete accuracy, not even in the limited set of characteristics being studied. The inappropriateness of a model may be related to differences between the model and what is being modeled.

Next Generation Science Standards

Matter and Its Interactions (HS-PS1)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties. (HS-PS1-2)
  • Develop a model to illustrate that the release or absorption of energy from a chemical reaction system depends upon the changes in total bond energy. (HS-PS1-4)

Energy (HS-PS3)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Develop and use a model of two objects interacting through electric or magnetic fields to illustrate the forces between objects and the changes in energy of the objects due to the interaction. (HS-PS3-5)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Structure and Properties of Matter (PS1.A)
  • Each atom has a charged substructure consisting of a nucleus, which is made of protons and neutrons, surrounded by electrons. (9-12)
  • The structure and interactions of matter at the bulk scale are determined by electrical forces within and between atoms. (9-12)
Chemical Reactions (PS1.B)
  • Chemical processes, their rates, and whether or not energy is stored or released can be understood in terms of the collisions of molecules and the rearrangements of atoms into new molecules, with consequent changes in the sum of all bond energies in the set of molecules that are matched by changes in kinetic energy. (9-12)
Types of Interactions (PS2.B)
  • Attraction and repulsion between electric charges at the atomic scale explain the structure, properties, and transformations of matter, as well as the contact forces between material objects. (9-12)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Cause and Effect (K-12)
  • Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural systems. (6-8)
Scale, Proportion, and Quantity (3-12)
  • Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small. (6-8)
  • The significance of a phenomenon is dependent on the scale, proportion, and quantity at which it occurs. (9-12)
Structure and Function (K-12)
  • Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts, therefore complex natural structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function. (6-8)
Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems (1-12)
  • Scientific knowledge is based on the assumption that natural laws operate today as they did in the past and they will continue to do so in the future. (9-12)

Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)
    • Analyze data using computational models in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims. (9-12)
Developing and Using Models (K-12)
  • Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)
    • Develop and use a model based on evidence to illustrate the relationships between systems or between components of a system. (9-12)
    • Use a model to provide mechanistic accounts of phenomena. (9-12)
Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information (K-12)
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to evaluating the validity and reliability of the claims, methods, and designs. (9-12)
    • Communicate technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (including orally, graphically, textually, and mathematically). (9-12)
Science Models, Laws, Mechanisms, and Theories Explain Natural Phenomena (2-12)
  • Models, mechanisms, and explanations collectively serve as tools in the development of a scientific theory. (9-12)
Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)
  • Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)
    • Use mathematical representations of phenomena to describe explanations. (9-12)
    • Create or revise a simulation of a phenomenon, designed device, process, or system. (9-12)

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Particles and Interactions and the Standard Model
Unit Title: Molecular Structures and Bonding

In this interactive activity, students explore different types of chemical bonds by first viewing a single hydrogen atom in an electric field model. Next, students use sliders to change the electronegativity between two atoms -- a model to help them understand why some atoms are attracted. Finally, students experiment in making their own models: non-polar covalent, polar covalent, and ionic bonds.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(The Concord Consortium, Concord, 2008), WWW Document, (http://concord.org/stem-resources/chemical-bonds).
Concord Consortium: Chemical Bonds (The Concord Consortium, Concord, 2008), <http://concord.org/stem-resources/chemical-bonds>.
APA Format
Concord Consortium: Chemical Bonds. (2008). Retrieved July 23, 2014, from The Concord Consortium: http://concord.org/stem-resources/chemical-bonds
Chicago Format
National Science Foundation. Concord Consortium: Chemical Bonds. Concord: The Concord Consortium, 2008. http://concord.org/stem-resources/chemical-bonds (accessed 23 July 2014).
MLA Format
Concord Consortium: Chemical Bonds. Concord: The Concord Consortium, 2008. National Science Foundation. 23 July 2014 <http://concord.org/stem-resources/chemical-bonds>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {Concord Consortium: Chemical Bonds}, Publisher = {The Concord Consortium}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {23 July 2014}, Year = {2008} }
Refer Export Format

%T Concord Consortium: Chemical Bonds
%D 2008
%I The Concord Consortium
%C Concord
%U http://concord.org/stem-resources/chemical-bonds
%O application/java

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D 2008
%T Concord Consortium: Chemical Bonds
%I The Concord Consortium
%V 2014
%N 23 July 2014
%9 application/java
%U http://concord.org/stem-resources/chemical-bonds

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Citation Source Information

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Concord Consortium: Chemical Bonds:

Is Supplemented By Chemguide: Electronegativity

A detailed tutorial that explains the concept of electronegativity, the measurement of an atom's ability to attract electrons. Appropriate for high school physics or as content support for teachers.

relation by Caroline Hall
Has Teaching Guide Chemical Bonds: Teacher's Guide

This is a link to a Teacher's Guide developed specifically for use with the Chemical Bonds interactive activity.

relation by Caroline Hall

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