Interactive Atom Activity Part 2: Using the APH Periodic Table

By Laura Hospitál on Mar 07, 2016

Students use the APH Periodic Table and AZER Reference Booklet to build an atom of an element given only the element symbol or atomic number.  Both are available on Quota Funds - See links in materials section below.

Students are given an atomic number, element symbol, or element name and must determine from the AZER Periodic Table Reference Booklet how many protons, neutrons, and electrons are needed. Students must identify the element.  The students will then create an accurate model using a hula hoop as the nucleus and themselves as the parts of the atom. 

This activity is appropriate for students in grade-level middle school and high school classes who have learned to use the AZER Periodic Table Reference Book.  Students in high school may and have been taught not only the basic structure of the atom but also the location of electrons in levels. 


  1.  Prepare the Periodic Table Reference Booklets according to the adaptation in APH Periodic Table Reference Booklet - Easier access.
  1.  Prepare cards in large print/braille for the elements to be built.  The students will wear these cards when they build the atoms.  I recommend elements in the 2nd row of the periodic table such as carbon or oxygen.
    • The cards should read as follows for Carbon:
      • Electrons - 6
      • Neutrons - 6
      • Protons - 6


BOTH of the following are available on Quota Funds.

  • 1 hula hoop


If only one student is completing this activity, modify as necessary,

  1. Tell students that they will be building an atom themselves today using a hula hoop as the nucleus and themselves as the protons, neutrons, and electrons.  In order to do so, they will need to figure out how many protons, neutrons, and electrons that this element has.  They will each have a Periodic Table Reference Booklet to use. Field questions from the students before passing out the cards.
  2. Tell the students that they will have a race to find this information.  Once a student has found this information, he should write it down and raise his hand so that all of the students can have the chance to work through the process of finding it.  Some students may need assistance finding the correct table, while others will be able to do this on their own. If you have any kind of point system in your class, you may want to offer points. 
  3. Give 1/2 of the class a card with the name of the element.
  4. Give the other half of the class a card with the same element symbol.
  5. Tell the students to begin. 
  6. After about 5 minutes, discuss which element this is and the number of protons, neutrons, and electrons.
  7. Discuss how students came to their answers. 

Building the atom:

  1. Assign each student a subatomic particle - electrons, neutrons, or protons. Remind the students of how many of each are found in this atom.  Give each student the prepared label.  
  2. Students will place themselves appropriately in the nucleus (hula hoop) or outside of the nucleus.  (See variations for students who are familiar with electron levels and may be able to include this content in the activity.
  3. Correct the placement if necessary.
  4. Repeat the activity using a different element.


  • Discuss atomic structure with the class and field any questions on using the AZER Reference Booklet.
  • Give the students several more elements to race and find in the AZER Reference Booklet. 


  • High school students and advanced middle school students who have learned about electron levels, can be expected to describe the number of electrons in each level for the element described.
  • More advanced students can also be given the atomic number information about an element instead of the name of the element or the element symbol.

NGSS Standards:

Middle School - Structure and Properties of Matter 

  • Substances are made from different types of atoms, which combine with one another in various ways. Atoms form molecules that range in size from two to thousands of atoms. (MS-PS1-1)
  • Each pure substance has characteristic physical and chemical properties (for any bulk quantity under given conditions) that can be used to identify it. (MS-PS1-3) (Note: This Disciplinary Core Idea is also addressed by MS-PS1-2.)

High School -  PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

  • Each atom has a charged substructure consisting of a nucleus, which is made of protons and neutrons, surrounded by electrons. (HS-PS1-1)
  • The periodic table orders elements horizontally by the number of protons in the atom’s nucleus and places those with similar chemical properties in columns. The repeating patterns of this table reflect patterns of outer electron states. (HS-PS1-1)
  • The structure and interactions of matter at the bulk scale are determined by electrical forces within and between atoms. (HS-PS1-3),(secondary to HS-PS2-6)

Collage of interactive atom activity

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