Activity 4.4 - Molecular Models for Ethanol Burning (50 min)

Target Student Performance

Students use molecular models to explain how carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms are rearranged into new molecules during the oxidation of ethanol (the chemical change that happens when ethanol burns).

Resources You Provide

  • molecular model kit (1 per pair of students)
  • scissors (1 per pair of students)
  • twist ties (at least 12 per pair of students)

Resources Provided

Recurring Resources


Prepare one model kit, one Molecular Models 11 x 17 Placemat, one pair of scissors, and one Forms of Energy Cards for each pair of students. Print one copy of the 4.4 Molecular Models for Ethanol Burning Worksheet and 4.4 Molecular Models for Ethanol Burning Reading 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.


Listen for the students’ sense of necessity to make sure that atoms last forever during chemical changes. Asking them about the “atoms are forever” rule during the molecular modeling and animation may give you a sense of how committed they are to conserving matter.

  • Laminate the Molecular Models 11 x 17 Placemat. These will be used multiple times in each unit.
  • During the molecular modeling activity and animation, focus on how matter and energy are conserved through the chemical change. This is the main goal of the activity!
Extending the Learning

Lesson 5 will include opportunities for students to learn about the combustion of other fuels, including methane, propane, and octane. Curious students can look up the formulas for these fuels and make molecular models of them.