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It’s ‘elementary’ for Lathrop High students
During the experiment, students checked on which element was most reactive to hydrochloric acid.

Next Generation Science Standards is the practice of making high school science a hands-on experience.

Chemistry students at Lathrop High did just that, deepening their understanding by making their own 3D element models.

From there, they connected those models in the classroom lab environment.

“This project will not only teach them atomic structure, but also help build deep understanding of periodic trends,” said LHS Chemistry teacher Gupreet Deol.

She added: “We did a follow up wet lab of reacting metals with water and then again with hydrochloric acid. Based on their models, students predicted which metal will be the most reactive.”

Student James Galbadores, in his 3D model, pushed floral wire through foam balls.

“It’s interesting to me that the number of protons is the identity of the element, so if you just take one out then it becomes something else,” he said.

Before taking on this 3D modeling assignment, students worked in groups to understand and draw atoms online. 

“This was pretty cool getting to know more about periodic elements,” said Diego Ochoa. “Doing it on paper is too complicated, but this 3D visual makes me understand the rings and electrons that are needed and used.”

During the hands-on lab portion, Deol provided three students samples of lithium, sodium, and potassium to see which element was most reactive to hydrochloric acid.

The first two elements produced no reaction, and then a small reaction, the potassium created a much larger reaction with more light, fire, and gas.

In the discussion after the lab, Ricardo Gomez came up with a comparison to why potassium – which has more electrons – was the most reactive element.

“If you say that electrons are students, a teacher can control a small class with only 18 students better because there are fewer students,” said Gomez. “But in a larger element, or a class with more students, it is easier for one student to sneak out.”

As teachers incorporate more of the NGSS into their classrooms, students will experience more hands-on projects at home that directly connect to classroom labs for a deeper understanding of science and how it explains the world around them.