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Atoms and Elements



purple, plus, positive = proton


gray, expressionless = neutral
leafless = chargeless


red, angry(enraged) = electron
minus = negative charge

Elemental Atom

Adam-the-elephant = elemental atom


tomato = matter

Atoms and Elements 


Matter is everything in the universe that occupies space and has mass. Think of matter as a category, or a convenient way of grouping things, rather than a thing itself. Just as the category “plants” is just an easier way of representing all plants than listing them individually, so too is “matter” just an easier way of representing the things that fall under that category, which is everything. Matter is the ultimate category because all things belong to it, from the greatest string of galaxies to the tiniest part of an atom.


screenshot_834The atom is the basic unit of any substance. An atom consists of a nucleus, which contains the proton(s) and neutron(s), and the electron cloud, which is really just a representation of where the electron(s) might be at any given time. Protons have positive charge, electrons have negative charge, and  neutrons have no charge. It is the number of protons that determines what element an atom belongs to.


Each individual element is different substance with unique chemical properties. Elements are grouped together for easier study and classification on the Periodic Table. This makes it much easier to keep track of all of the different elements, their chemical properties, and how they interact with each other.

The Atom and Matter Script

1. Zoom: Whole image

Hot Spot:  elephant = element; Adam(fig leaf) = atom; apple = subatomic particle

Learning:  The atom is the smallest unit a substance, or element, can be broken into without ceasing to be that same substance. In this CoursePic, we see an elephant, which   represents the element, wearing Adam's fig leaf to remind us that the basic unit of an element is an atom. Atoms are made up of varying combinations of three subatomic particles, shown here as apples.

Story: Adam may be the smallest of all the elephants, but he and his apples play a big role in keeping the whole world running.

2. Zoom: purple apple

Hot Spot:  purple, plus, positive = proton

Learning:  The first of the three subatomic particles is the proton. It carries a charge of +1 and has a mass of almost one atomic mass unit. Since a proton is positive, this smiling proton apple is purple and has a plus for a leaf.

Story: The smiling purple proton apple's positive outlook on life is a definite plus.

3. Zoom: gray apple

Hot Spot:  gray, expressionless = neutral; leafless = chargeless

Learning: The next subatomic particle is the neutron. Neutrons have no charge, so the neutron apple is leafless. To further show it's neutrality, it is colored a neutral gray and has a blank facial expression. Neutrons have a mass of one atomic mass unit.

Story: The gray neutron apple just doesn't have the energy to care. To it, the world is leafless and dull.

4. Zoom: red apple

Hot Spot: red, angry(enraged) = electron; minus = negative charge

Learning: The third subatomic particle, the electron, has a charge of -1 and a nearly negligible atomic mass. To show the negative charge, the electron apple is red and enraged and has a minus as a leaf.

Story: The red faced electron apple is enraged  at having a minus for a leaf. No matter the situation, it always sees the negative side of things.

5. Zoom: elephant

Hot Spot:  Adam-the-elephant = elemental atom

Learning: Adam-the-elephant, who represents the elemental atom, has a proton apple and a neutron apple in his belly. This shows the relative location of actual protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus. Just as the electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom, Adam-the-elephant's enraged electron apple flies around him.

Story: The positive proton apple is always happy to be the center of attention, but his partner, the gray neutron apple doesn't care one way or the other. The always negative electron apple longs for the companionship that the other two can have, and is red with rage at neutron for not valuing it. Adam-the-elephant doesn't mind the electron apple's furious buzzing about, so long as balance is maintained.

6. Zoom: tomato

Hot Spot:  tomato = matter

Learning:  Atoms, whether alone or bonded together in groups, make up all of the physical things in the universe, which we call matter. Everything that has mass, whether gas, liquid, or solid, is matter. We are matter, our houses are matter, and our food-like this tomato-are all matter.

Story: Adam and all of the other elephants just want to matter, to be a part of something greater than themselves. Without the teamwork of all these elephants, this delicious tomato  would never have been.

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