Join students Sophie, Tomás, Emma, and Marcus during Fifth Period! This STEM comic strip chronicles the exciting and often hilarious adventures of a close-knit group of four friends as they learn about science, technology, engineering, and math from their kooky, inspiring, off-the-wall science teacher, Mr. Kepler. When they're not in class, these kids love to explore the vast world of STEM on their own, launching weather balloons, programming computer games, and cataloging insects, sometimes with unpredictable and highly entertaining results!
Check back on the first and third Friday of every month for a new Fifth Period strip!
Tomás and Marcus really misunderstood the girls: bonding—chemical bonding, to be exact—is no little thing. In this case, pure sodium, one of the Earth’s most volatile solids, will bond with hydrogen and oxygen—which is what makes up a water molecule. Sodium’s tendency to bond with other elements is so strong, it will actually break apart water molecules just to get at that hydrogen and oxygen. The resulting decomposition reaction (remember those?) releases so much energy that it ignites the excess hydrogen gas created during the reaction. In short: BOOM! Observing such a fantastic display can be a great way to strengthen a friendship! (From behind a safety barrier with protective eyewear, of course.)
What exactly is happening at the atomic level, though? You may already know that atoms of any element are made up of protons, electrons, and neutrons—teeny-tiny subatomic particles. Protons have a positive charge, and electrons have a negative charge (and, as you probably guessed, neutrons have no charge!). Electrons will orbit the nucleus of an atom (which is made up of the protons and neutrons). Without going into too much detail, atoms of different elements will sometimes share or steal their electrons, depending on which element has the correct number of electrons in its outer energy shell. The resulting difference in electrical charge bonds the two atoms together—opposites attract, remember?
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Learn more about how atoms bond. This video explains in more detail how atoms (like those of the element sodium) will swap electrons to form brand new molecules.