User login

Scaling an Atom

Source Institutions

    The Exploratorium

Add to listGo to activity
Scaling an Atom

In this activity, learners make a scale model of an atom to see how big or how small an atom is compared to its nucleus. Learners will realize that most of matter is just empty space! Learners will calculate the diameter and radius of a pinhead and the distance between the radius and the electron cloud as well as other optional measurements listed in the "Etc." portion of the resource.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Straight pin with small pinhead
  • Chalk dust, talk or other powder
  • Meter stick


  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
    • Measurement
      • Size and Scale
      • Circles
    • Number and Operations
      • Exponents
      • Fractions
    • Problem Solving
  • Physical Sciences
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure
      • Elementary Particles and Nuclear Physics
      • Mass and Weight
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data

Informal Categories

  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Muller, Eric


  • All Rights Reserved, Exploratorium, ©2002


User Lists

This resource is part of these lists: