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Systems and Scale | Activity 5.1

(Optional) Activity 5.1: Molecular Modeling for Methane Burning (40 min)

Students practice answering the Three Questions for methane burning. If students’ still need help thinking about matter and energy transformation at an atomic-molecular scale, they may benefit from completing the molecular modeling and explanations activities for methane burning in this and the next activity. You may choose to skip ahead to Activity 5.2 or Activity 5.3 if you feel students do not need another molecular modeling and/or explanation activity.

Materials You Provide

  • molecular modeling kit (1 per pair of students)
  • scissors (1 per pair of students)
  • twist ties (12 per pair of students)

Resources Provided


Prepare one model kit, one Molecular Models 11x17 Placemat, one pair of scissors, and one Forms of Energy Cards for each pair of students. Print one copy of the 5.1 Molecular Models for Methane Burning Worksheet for each pair of students. Prepare a computer and a projector to display the PPT.


1. Use the instructional model to show students where they are in the course of the unit.


Step 2 above is a key assessment step. If your students are able to answer the Three Questions for methane burning, you may feel comfortable skipping activity 5.3 without having them do the molecular modeling or completing the Explanations Tool for Methane Burning.


If you complete the molecular modeling activity, emphasize the similarity between the explanation for methane burning and the explanation for ethanol burning. The same rules and patterns apply to all examples of burning organic materials.