Get your Gummy Greenhouse Gases!

Get your Gummy Greenhouse Gases!

Gumdrop Smiley face.

Got gumdrops? Then you can build models of molecules. Molecules are tiny structures that make up just about all matter—including you! Molecules themselves are made of atoms, the basic building blocks of matter.

Using just four kinds of atoms as building blocks, you can construct many different types of molecules. In this project, you will build models of some gas molecules. These kinds of gas molecules are part of the air. They are called greenhouse gases. We will explain why later.

For now, get ready for some gummy fun!

You will need:

  • Gumdrops, any size, four different colors.

  • These atoms are usually modeled using red for oxygen, white for hydrogen, gray for carbon, and blue for nitrogen. However, some of these colors are mighty hard to find in gumdrops. So use any colors you like. Here's how many you will need of each (but don't forget to get extras for sneaking into your mouth):

    Red: 13
    White: 7
    Gray (or black): 3
    Blue: 2

  • Round wooden toothpicks

  • Construction paper, 1 large sheet (12x18, for example)

  • Felt pen or crayons

Here are the colors we used for our gumdrop building block atoms:

Red gumdrop
White gumdrop
Purple gumdrop
Green gumdrop

You will make . . .

. . . Gummy Greenhouse Gas models of these gases. Each molecule has a shorthand name, which also gives its recipe, or formula. For example, ozone is also called O3, where O stands for an oxygen atom and the little 3 means there are three of them. Here are all the greenhouse gas molecules, their formulas, and a picture of its gumdrop model.

Name of
greenhouse gas
Recipe Shortcut
Gumdrop model
Ozone 3 oxygen atoms O3 Three red (oxygen) gumdrops joined by two half-toothpicks.
Nitrous oxide 2 nitrogen atoms and
1 oxygen atom
N2O One green (nitrogen) gumdrop joined by half-toothpicks to two red (oxygen) gumdrops.
Carbon dioxide 1 carbon and
2 oxygen atoms
CO2 One purple (carbon) gumdrop joined by half-toothpicks to two red (oxygen) gumdrops.
Water vapor 2 hydrogen atoms and
1 oxygen atom
H2O Two white (hydrogen) gumdrops joined by half-toothpicks to one red (oxygen) gumdrop.
Methane 1 carbon atom and
4 hydrogen atoms
CH4 One purple (carbon) gumdrop joined by half-toothpicks to four white (hydrogen) gumdrops.

Here's how:

  • Break several toothpicks in half. You will need only one-half a toothpick to make each "bond." The bonds are how the atoms are stuck together to make molecules.

  • Build each of the greenhouse gas molecules, as shown above.

  • Now, take the big piece of construction paper and your crayons or felt pen and label it something like this:

  • Paper has Greenhouse Gases as title across top. Legend at upper left names the four kinds of atoms (O = oxygen; H = hydrogen; Cj = carbon; N = nitrogen) with the appropriate colored gumdrop beside it. Rest of page has the names of the molecules, with formulas, and the gumdrop model placed above the labels.

  • Place your molecules above their labels.

link image for downloading pdf of above activity

article last updated January 2, 2014
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