Fall SAVY 2016 (Day 1) – Intro to Macromolecules
In order to establish a foundation for learning about macromolecules, specifically their structures, we spent our first SAVY Saturday learning about how all macromolecules, and all molecules for that matter, are composed of atoms. We learned about the components of an atom and what makes each type of element different from another. When tasked with depicting an atom as a group, the students came up with some very creative physical representations! We also discussed the different elements that can be found in our food and what those elements do in our bodies. I encourage you to continue this exercise with your student at home by pulling a few items out of your refrigerator or pantry and looking to see what elements are listed in the nutrition facts section (they can use the periodic table that they received in class to help them). What elements are found in most foods? Which types of elements are more abundant in certain types of foods? Why do you think that that is the case? If there are other terms on the nutrition labels that aren’t elements, what are they?
Following our discussion of atoms, we learned how, in order to increase their stability, atoms can share electrons in their outermost shells (valence electrons) to form molecules. We learned some general rules for how many bonds each type of element forms (mainly the ones found in organic compounds, i.e. hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon) and put our skills to the test building small molecules using gumdrops and toothpicks. Different colored gumdrops represented different atoms, while the toothpicks represented bonds. If you have gumdrops, or an equivalent soft candy, consider allowing your student to continue to build molecules to hone their skills. (They may have brought home a sheet with chemical formulas on which they could continue to work.)
Next Saturday we will discuss functional groups, or groups of atoms bonded together in a specific way, that are unique to different macromolecules. We will also discuss how these macromolecules—carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins—provide us with energy. I am looking forward to exploring these topics in less than a week with this bright and energetic group of young scholars!