App Description: Nice Molecules is an app that has a database of over 250 molecular compounds. On clicking the ‘I’ button, you can get information on the chemical formula, history, use and where these molecules are seen in daily life. You can also connect to a Wikipedia page for more information on the molecule. It shows 3D, rotating molecular structures that can be changed at random by shaking the iPad.
How We Use It: At the Children’s Museum of Houston, we use this app in the Super Small Matter Lab in the Matter Factory. The content that we try to teach in a kid-friendly language is that Molecules are everywhere; in solids, gas and water. Also, just like a shape is created by many sides (a triangle has 3 sides), in the same way many atoms/tiny particles stick together to create a molecule. The matter lab has a molecule making station with various colored balls, sticks and info cards with structures of common molecules such as Water, Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide, etc. These cards have information such as the name and visual structure of the molecule, chemical formula and where it is found in daily life.
We use this app as an extension of knowledge from simple to complex. We start off by making a simple molecule with the kid like the one on the cards. Then we show more complex ones like Fructose (in candy), Aspirin (medicine for headaches), Caffeine (in chocolates and sodas) or Vitamin C (in orange juice) and where they are found. We ask the kids to count the number of atoms in the structure and then identify which colors they are. If the kids are older (ages 7+) then we try to figure out the names of atoms (whether oxygen, carbon or hydrogen or any other) based on the color-coded chart of atoms near the molecule station. For example, white is for Hydrogen and black is for Carbon. If the kids are interested then we try to make a complex molecule with many atoms. In addition, some challenges can be talking about small and big molecules; some smallest molecules are Hydrogen gas (H2), carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen (O2) while some of the biggest (complex) molecules are some proteins, and Diamond.
Important note: We feel that it is better to choose a molecular compound from the list by clicking the ‘+’ button because there are a few compounds in the list that are not appropriate for children such as LSD, Cocaine, Heroin etc. Therefore, please make an important note of having the facilitator choose an age-appropriate molecule before sharing with the visitor.
Please share any other innovative ideas that you may for using this app 🙂