Inquiry-Based Activities and Games That Engage Students in Learning Atomic Orbitals

Journal of Chemical Education vol. 99  p. 2175-2181  DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.1c01023  Published: 2022-03-15 

Xiao Li, Kar Lun Chun, Jonathan Tai, Francesca Guerra, Darrin M. York [ ]


Atomic orbitals represent an essential construct used to develop chemical bonding models, upon which other more advanced chemistry topics are built. In this article, we share a series of active-learning activities and a gamified approach to develop students’ representational competence about atomic orbitals and to engage students in learning the properties of atomic orbitals. These properties are essential for understanding an array of fundamental concepts such as penetration and shielding, relationships such as periodic trends, and models used to describe chemical bonding. The activities employ an inquiry-based approach to engage students in exploring the relationship between atomic orbitals’ spatial properties and quantum numbers. The activities guide students to collect data to verify periodic trends and construct electronic configurations. The activities utilize Orbital Explorer Web site for visualization, comparison, and analysis of atomic orbitals. The Orbital Explorer Web site is described in a related Technology Report. The activities and the game are suitable to be conducted in both in-person and remote-teaching settings.