Posts Tagged ‘chemistry’

LEGO DNA Transcription

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015


When you are studying biology, why not make a LEGO DNA transcription model? This will help your high school students to internalize this process by participating in a hands-on activity to reinforce the concept.

This is a picture of DNA as it is being turned into RNA and proteins. You can look at a drawing in a textbook to see what shape you should make with the LEGOs. Start with a green LEGO base, and build up the DNA transcription process little by little.

DNA Transcription

Here is my son’s description of this process:

First a molecule called RNA Polymerase speeds down the DNA strand, unzipping the double helix and making messenger RNA, using nucleotides floating around. The RNA is basically the same as the DNA except that instead of Thymine (T), the RNA has Uracil (U).

When the RNA Polymerase reaches a special end code in the DNA, the mRNA strand is released into the cytoplasm of the cell. A ribosome forms around it. The ribosome takes transfer molecules with amino acids on them and links them to the mRNA.

Each transfer molecule has a group of three letters, called a codon, on it. The codons link up with the mRNA and, in doing so, make a protein with the amino acids they are carrying. Then the empty transfer molecules leave the mRNA and leave behind their amino acids as more take their place.

This goes on until the protein is complete. Then it goes off to a chaperone, which is a special machine for folding proteins. When the protein is folded, it is done, and it goes off to the part of the cell where it is needed.

DNA Transcription Video

If you look at the LEGO DNA transcription model at the top of this page, you can find out exactly what is happening in the model by watching this short video:

LEGO Atomic Structure

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015


A fun hands-on activity for studying chemistry is to build a LEGO atomic structure, including the protons, neutrons, and electrons of each atom. Each of your atomic models will help to re-enforce the Periodic Table of Elements as you seek to find out how to build each one.

The LEGO atom at the top of this post is an Oxygen atom. The nucleus contains 8 protons and 8 neutrons. The protons are red, and the neutrons are black. The 8 electrons are blue LEGOs that are placed on top of white LEGO rings. The inner shell has 2 electrons and the outer shell has 6 electrons, making a total of 8 electrons.


The Neon atom has 10 protons, 10 neutrons, and 10 electrons. Go ahead and build the Neon atom, just as you built the Oxygen atom, including the correct amount of black, red, and blue LEGOs.

Continue to build more elements. The more elements you build, the more familiar you will become with the atomic numbers. Handling the LEGOs physically will help your tactile learners re-enforce the learning to make it unforgettable. You will need to have a Periodic Table of Elements open in order to build the atoms correctly. The atomic number is the number of protons and electrons in the atom, and these are always the same number. To find the number of neutrons, subtract the protons from the atomic number. Easy!

If you would like to build atomic models out of styrofoam balls or candy, take a look at this post:

For more posts about chemistry, check out my chemistry series, which includes fun demonstration videos for each hands-on activity:

Also check out the fun coloring book we used during our study to help familiarize ourselves with the Periodic Table of Elements:

I hope you enjoyed building at least one LEGO atomic structure!

LEGO Chemistry

Monday, March 2nd, 2015


My son illustrated how water dissolves salt in a solution, performing LEGO chemistry! He started with a square green base. He placed yellow and orange LEGOs on the bottom, representing Na and Cl. The Na (sodium ion) is positively charged, and the Cl (chloride ion) is negatively charged.

When placed in water, the water has a polar covalent bond, meaning that the water molecules are slightly charged. This is because the Oxygen pulls harder on the shared Hydrogen electrons, making the Oxygen side negatively charged. The two smaller Hydrogens are slightly positively charged because their electrons are being hogged by the Oxygen most of the time.


When the table salt (NaCl) is placed into water (H20), the positively-charged Sodium atom is attracted to the negatively-charged Oxygen atom, pulling the Sodium away from the Chloride. In the same way, the negatively-charged Chloride ion is attracted to the positive end of the water molecule (the two Hydrogen atoms).

The water is dissolving the salt by breaking the Na apart from the Cl in this way. The small blue LEGOs are Oxygen atoms, and the red LEGOs are Hydrogen atoms. (In reality, he should have used tiny single LEGOs for the Hydrogen atoms, because they are way smaller than Oxygen atoms are!)


And there you have it: LEGO Chemistry! If you did not understand my explanation, perhaps this video will help to clear things up:

How Water Dissolves Salt

Why not join the Unit Study Treasure Vault and watch the 24 high school chemistry experiments we’ve performed so far!

Chemistry Coloring Book

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014


I received copies of this book for free and was compensated for an honest review. This post may contain affiliate links.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve noticed all the cool chemistry experiments we’ve been doing. I have been teaching my younger two kids elementary-level chemistry and my older two kids high school chemistry. I had all four of my kids color one element per day in The Periodic Table of Elements Coloring Book, and we learned a lot about each element!

This chemistry coloring book has one element per page: one side lists bullet points to help us find out about that element, and the other side is a coloring page about that element. By coloring the pictures, you cement in your mind visually what each element is all about. Even though I aced my high school chemistry class years ago, I never learned all the elements so up-close like this!

Here is a video where I explain how I used the book:

I read the bulleted list for one element each day, and it took less than five minutes. While I read the page, the kids colored the coloring page. We located each element on the Periodic Table at the front of the book, and we became familiar with each element as the days went by.

The day we studied Neon, we were driving around in the car, and my 9-year-old daughter pointed to a Neon sign and shouted, “Neon! Atomic number 10! Let’s find more Neon signs, Mom!” She would never have known that Neon was atomic number 10 if we hadn’t studied it that day. The coloring book caused my elementary-aged daughter to become familiar with elements, and she wanted to play games trying to find those elements. She screamed with joy when she recognized the first Neon sign after having colored it in her book earlier that day.


For my high school-level students, you never really get the chance to become familiar with elements like this during a chemistry course. Because my high school students had done one simple coloring page a day, they internalized the lighter and heavier elements in their minds. For example, Hydrogen is atomic #1, and it is the lightest element. When  we were halfway through the coloring book, we knew that the elements that we were familiar with were the lighter elements. The unfamiliar elements were on the bottom half of the chart.  Each number goes up in atomic mass (or weight), so when my high school-level students were trying to find an element on the Periodic Table, they located the elements a lot more quickly because of their familiarity with each element. Like I said, we located one element on the chart per day as we colored the elements.


There is plenty of time during a school year to take it one element per day rather than just rushing through them. We also tried to locate those elements in real life each day when we could. For example, Sodium is present in table salt, so you can have a salt shaker in front of you as you read the Sodium page. We found some more elements in our rocks and minerals collection.  When you study Helium, why not go to a party store and buy a Helium balloon to celebrate that element, which is obviously lighter than air!


There are no drawbacks from this chemistry coloring book aside from a few typos which are common in all books and don’t detract from the great content. Also, the book only covers the first 56 elements, and elements 72-86, which are the most common elements. I’m fine with that. We LOVED the book, and I highly recommend it for all the reasons I’ve mentioned.

After going through The Periodic Table of Elements Coloring Book, whenever we watch a show that mentions any element on the Periodic Table, we know what the show is talking about. Because we are more knowledgeable about the elements, my kids are confident in their study of chemistry.