It all began with John Dalton’s atomic theory in 1803. What is the fundamental building block of matter, the atom, and what did it look like? No one had the technology to see things that small centuries ago so on came a series of theoretical models of the atom. Dalton proposed his in 1803, but then with more data, there were a series of revised models proposed in the early 1900s. There was J.J. Thomson’s “plum pudding” model in 1904 in which electrons are embedded in positive charge, like raisins (once called “plums”) are embedded in pudding. Then came Ernest Rutherford’s model in 1911 in which the atom looked more like the solar system, with a nucleus that contained almost all the mass of the atom (much like the sun contains almost all the mass of the solar system), around which electrons circulate at some specific distance, like planets around the sun. Then Niels Bohr modified the Rutherford model and argued that electrons revolve around the nucleus in orbits of fixed sizes and energies, the now popular model later modified by Erwin Schrodinger.
Excelsior students got to illustrate this history of atomic models with candy created models of their own in Chris Porter’s Chemistry class. They used Twizzlers, Dots, and gumdrops to make candy versions of Bohr’s, Rutherford’s, and Thomson’s model.
Hands on learning! That’s how we roll at Excelsior.