Bohr-Rutherford Models don’t have to be so “Bohring”

Practicing Bohr-Rutherford diagrams can be a “bohring” and repetitive activity, but interpretive dance can shake things up. Let’s get students out of their desks and working as collaborative teams to share knowledge and create success criteria.


  • 3 ropes (depending on the size of your class; different colours are suggested)
  • Headbands (optional)
  • Success criteria on how to create Bohr-Rutherford diagrams (optional)
  • Large open area


Periodic Tables 

Group students into 3 teams, labeling each team as protons, neutrons, or electrons (headbands identifying students are optional). Separate groups around the open area. Identify an element on the periodic table for students to create (start with elements that have a small atomic number); ask teams to send the suitable number of people into the centre that represents the correct number of protons, neutrons, and electrons of the identified element. Once the class agrees on the proper number of components of the element, have students create the nucleus and appropriate number of orbits around the nucleus for set element using the rope provided. Students should then stand in their appropriate locations: protons and neutrons are located in the nucleus and electrons are located on the orbits (electrons will be using their knowledge of the 2-8-8 arrangement). After practicing the first few elements on the periodic table with the lowest atomic numbers, move to an element that includes most of the class. This will maintain all students’ interest.

Possible Extension

Create success criteria with students (think-pair-share) after interpretive dance. Criteria should include the process involved in creating a Bohr-Rutherford diagram and ways to check your own work (using trends in the periodic table). Redo the interpretive dance, but this time have one student act as the “narrator” during the activity reading step-by-step the success criteria. For students struggling, this provides them with an instructional tool to create Bohr-Rutherford diagrams and practice using this tool.

Students enjoy this activity and support each other’s learning through the team component. When I completed this activity with grade 9 students, one of the electrons suggested they pick up the rope and circle around the nucleus to demonstrate the orbiting motion. Protons and neutrons could be asked to “jiggle” to show that while they are part of the nucleus, they are not inert. This action showed me the activity was effective and students were making active links to the atomic model. Next time I complete this activity, I will take pictures and use these pictures as a reflection tool during the exam review.

Target Audience: Grade 9 Academic and Applied Chemistry: Atoms, Elements, and Compounds

Author: Bryanna Melenhorst – Teacher Candidate at Trent University