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Structure-Property Relationships


Lesson Summary


High school students will explore the structure and property changes of water through videos and classroom discussion. They will be introduced to atomic arrangement of solids by looking closely at carbon in different forms, such as graphite and diamond. They will view and manipulate online files of graphite and diamond structures to discover similarities and differences. An extension activity is research of buckyballs.

Content Objectives

Students will know that

  • molecular arrangement determines physical characteristics
  • phases are physical properties
  • why changing the structure of the molecule changes the properties of a substance

Process Objectives

Students will be able to

  • describe the molecular arrangement of various substances
  • explain the structural changes occurred by a water molecule during phase changes
  • label a diagram showing the phase changes of water

Assessment Strategies

  • Completion of video review questions
  • Completion of the vocabulary worksheet
  • Construction of phase diagram and explanation
  • Informal evaluation of participation in group discussion

Grade Level: 9-12

Suggested Time

About an hour

Multimedia Resources



Part I: Properties of Materials

1. Students should view Structure and Property Changes of Water QuickTime Video video (1 minute 5 seconds)

2. Teacher and students should discuss how phase changes of water affect its physical and chemical properties (3 minutes).

3. Students should research and list the meanings of the following terms: condensation, deposition, evaporation, freeze, gas, liquid, melt, solid, and sublimation.

4. Students should complete Part I

Structure-Property Relationships Vocabulary PDF Document

(2-5 minutes).

5. Teacher and students should review worksheet answers and talk about underlying concepts (5 minutes).

Part II: Property Changes

6. Teacher and students should review how adding or removing energy affects water using the terms defined above (10 minutes).

7. Students should complete Part II

Structure-Property Relationships Diagram PDF Document

(20 minutes).

Part III: Graphite vs. Diamond

8. Students should view Atomic Arrangements in Solids QuickTime Video video (1 minute 30 seconds).

9. To view and manipulate the atomic structures of graphite and diamond, students should visit an alphabetical list of common molecules hosted by Reciprocal Net by copying and pasting the following url into their browser (3 minutes).


Students should then scroll down the list to find, open, and manipulate the graphite and diamond files, noticing how their structures are the same or different.

Reciprocal Net is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation as part of the National Science Digital Library project and is open for use to the general public including students, teachers, and researchers.

10. Teacher should lead a discussion asking the students questions about similarities and differences between diamond and graphite (3 minutes).

Part IV: Other Examples

11. Teacher should lead a discussion about other objects whose physical properties change as simple molecular-structure changes occur (ex: iron horseshoes vs. iron swords, tearing 1 sheet of paper vs. tearing a ream of paper, etc).

Part V: Extension

12. Students can research a "buckyball." What is it? How is it similar/different from diamond and graphite