Submitted by Darren Achey / Kutztown University on Wed, 06/21/2023 - 11:58
My Notes

In this activity, students will collectively build molecular orbitals for homonuclear diatomic molecules using balloons as models for atomic orbitals. This activity gets students up and moving and involved in the building of an MO diagram and allows for 3-D visualization of the core concepts of building molecular orbitals from atomic orbitals.

Attachment Size
Balloon Built Molecular Orbitals LO.docx 24.98 KB
Learning Goals

1. A student should be able to build molecular orbitals resulting from combinations of atomic orbitals for homonuclear diatomic molecules

2. A student should be able to visually interpret symmetry considerations of atomic orbital mixing

3. A student should be able to explain differing orbital overlap resulting from p orbitals with different orientations

4. A student should be able to order molecular orbitals from lowest to highest energy

Equipment needs

Two different colors of balloons, roughly 8 of each color.

Implementation Notes

Who doesn't love balloons?

I usually perform this activity after a brief discussion of the idea of orbital overlap and wavefunction interference, constructively or destructively.

Time Required
15 minutes


Evaluation Methods

The activity itself is not evaluated nor is there an immediate post-activity evaluation, though students frequently comment once we get to much more complicated MO diagrams that the visualization in front of them of this first homonuclear diatomic really aided in their overcoming the mental hurdles of the beginning of MO theory.

Creative Commons License
Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike CC BY-NC-SA