This activity page will offer:
hands-on experience in constructing models
chance to visualize the atomic arrangements of nutrient molecules
opportunity to apply critical thinking to atomic modeling
Carbohydrates are a group of nutrients that include sugars and starches.
The most familiar carbohydrate building block is probably glucose.
Glucose is the basic "fuel" of living things. During the process
of cellular respiration, glucose breaks down and releases the energy
needed to maintain life processes.
Gum drops (variety of colors)
Examine the supply of gumdrops that you will be using to assemble
your molecular models. Now, consider the formula of glucose, C6H12O6.
Based on this formula, how should you assign specific colors to
the component atoms? (The most common color should be assigned
to hydrogen, since hydrogen atoms are the most numerous.)
build the ring version of glucose, let's construct a closed ring
formed by five carbon atoms and one oxygen atom.
let's add the sixth carbon atom. It is attached to the ring
carbon that is immediately to the left of the oxygen atom.
remaining five oxygen atoms are part of hydroxyl (OH) groups.
They are added as shown here
the model by adding the remaining seven hydrogen atoms so that
each carbon atom forms four bonds.
- What does the 12 refer to in the chemical formula
- How many total atoms are in one molecule of glucose?
- Write a balanced equation that illustrates the breakdown of
glucose during aerobic respiration.
are large molecules that are found in every living cell. Like carbohydrates,
they compose a critical part of our diet. They are also the profiled
nutrient in the Atkins diet. The basic building block of a protein
molecule is an amino acid. All amino acids share a common feature.
They contain both an amine (NH2) group and a carboxyl
- Glycine is the simplest amino acid. Like all amino acids it
has an amine,
group. Use gumdrops to construct this functional group.
- Like all amino acids, glycine also has a carboxyl (COOH) group.
In this group, one of the oxygen atoms forms a double bond with
the carbon atom. Use gumdrops to construct this functional group.
Remember to retain consistency in your assignment of gumdrop colors.
- The amine and acid group are both attached to a central carbon
atom. The remaining two bonds of this backbone carbon are saturated
with hydrogen. Your finished glycine model should resemble this
- What are amino acids?
- What are common features to all amino acids?
- Compare and contrast the composition of an amino acid to a sugar.
What foods contain the highest percentages of carbohydrates, proteins
and fats? Use Internet and print resources to uncover the common
dietary sources for these nutrients. Does an individual's economic
status effect the sources? Explain.
There are all sorts of computer molecular modeling programs on the
Web. Many are free to use and offer powerful construction and manipulation
out some of these free tools at http://ep.llnl.gov/msds/dvc/viewrs.html.
For MACs running under OS X, iMOL is a powerful program that you
it at http://www.pirx.com/iMol.
Models From a 2D Image
"freeviewing" two side-by-side images, you can experience the stereoscopic
illusion of depth. This technique is sometimes used by scientists
to help illustrate three-dimensional layout of molecules. Check
out this URL
for some screen-popping examples of the freeviewing effect: http://valhalla.chem.udel.edu/3-D.html.
A comprehensive site maintained by Tufts University that offers
a rating guide to nutrition websites
A reference to the biochemistry of various nutrients and diets.
An overview to the biology of digestion
Advisors for this Guide:
Suzanne Panico, Science Teacher Mentor, Cambridge Public Schools,
Anne E. Jones, Science Department, Wayland Middle School, Wayland,
Gary Pinkall, Middle School Science Teacher, Great Bend Public Schools,
Great Bend, KS
Cam Bennet Physics/Math Instructor Dauphin Regional Comprehensive
Secondary School Dauphin, MB Canada