Build Your Own Molecule

Lesson Overview

In 1897, Felix Hoffmann and Arthur Eichengrün took apart molecules of salicylic acid and acetic anhydride, then put their atoms back together to make molecules of acetylsalicylic acid, our friend aspirin.  This activity allows students to play Felix Hoffmann and build their own molecules…or at least models of molecules.

Student Ability Level and Grouping

This activity is appropriate for high school chemistry students. The activity is best carried out by students working in groups of three or four.

Expected Student Background and Skills

Students should have an understanding of the structure of molecules, as well as chemical formulas and equations.

Time and Materials Required

This activity requires 1–2 45-minute class periods.  You will need molecular modeling kits, enough for each student or group. A detailed inventory is included in the teacher guide for this activity.  You will also need access to standard chemical references such as the Merck Indexor the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. If those are unavailable, a catalog from a fine chemical supply house can be used.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will understand the structure of molecules.
  • Students will understand the connection between chemical formulas and equations and compounds.
  • Students will understand the complexity of molecular modeling.
  • Students will gain insight into the process of technology design and function.

National Science Education Standards

Unifying Concepts and Processes

  • Systems, order, and organization
  • Evidence, models, and explanation
  • Form and function

Science as Inquiry

  • Understanding of scientific concepts
  • Skills necessary to become independent inquirers about the natural world

Physical Science

  • The atomic and molecular nature of matter
  • Structure and properties of matter

Science and Technology

  • Abilities of technological design

Download the Activity

Connect with CHF