Activity Number
Overview and Learning Objectives
Classroom Practice
Central Concepts
Benchmarks and Standards
Activity Credits

Spectroscopy (SAM) (an 8-page, 1-2 day activity)

Interactive, scaffolded model

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Overview and Learning Objectives

Students explore the relationship between an atoms energy levels and its photon emissions. They explore the different ways an atom might be excited. Finally, students compare patterns of spectral emissions in order to identify the atomic constituents of matter.

Students will be able to:

• Determine that the frequency of a photon is determined by the difference of energy levels.

• Add energy and excite atoms.

• Analyze photon emissions and identify atoms that emit them.

• Determine that atoms can absorb photons of specific frequencies.

• Explore emissions spectrum, and identify atoms by their spectra.

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Classroom Practice

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Central Concepts

Key Concept:

An atom's spectrum is like its fingerprint -- unique to that particular kind of atom. Since every type of atom emits and absorbs only photons of particular frequencies, one can compare patterns of spectral emissions in order to identify the atomic constituents of matter.

Additional Related Concepts


  • Photon
  • Spectrum

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Benchmarks and Standards


  • THE PHYSICAL SETTING: ENERGY TRANSFORMATIONS - When energy of an isolated atom or molecule changes, it does so in a definite jump from one value to another, with no possible values in between (Full Text of Standard)


  • Physical-Science: Energy/Matter Interactions - 3 Each kind of atom or molecule can gain or lose energy only in particular discrete amounts (Full Text of Standard)

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Activity Credits

Created by CC Project: SAM using Molecular Workbench

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NSF Logo
These materials are based upon work supported
by the National Science Foundation under grant numbers
9980620, ESI-0242701, EIA-0219345, DUE-0402553, and 0628181.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this
material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect
the views of the National Science Foundation.