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The Noble GasesThe-Noble-Gases

  • Subject: Physical Science
  • |
  • Grade(s): 9-12
  • |
  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections

Objectives


Students will
  • Identify the noble gases on the periodic table of the elements and describe two characteristics
    of this group.
  • Design a neon sign and explain how it is made, identifying which noble gas produces each color.

Materials


  • Noble Gases program 
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Copy of the Periodic Table of Elements
  • Sheets of white paper
  • Markers and colored pencils

Procedures


  1. Begin the lesson by asking students to write on a piece of scrap paper where they have seen neon signs and whether they think these signs are effective. Then ask them to put the piece of paper away until the end of the lesson.
     
  2. Direct students? attention to the periodic table of the elements in a book or on a class chart. Point out the noble gases. As a class, make a list of the elements in this group, where on the periodic table they are located, and two characteristics of this group. The chart will include the following information.

    Elements in the Noble Gases Group
    • Helium
    • Neon
    • Argon
    • Krypton
    • Xenon
    • Radon

  3. Group on the Periodic Table
    • Group 18
       
  4. Characteristics of the Group
    • Stable and inert, or nonreactive
    • Colorless
    • Odorless

  5. Point out to students that even though the noble gases are colorless, some of them, including neon, argon, and xenon, are used to make neon signs found in many different places. Explain to students that they will be learning how colorless gases are used to make these colorful signs. Then they will design their own signs and write a description explaining how their signs are made.
     
  6. Ask students to begin their research about how noble gases are used to make neon signs by watching two segments from the programNoble Gases ? "Exploring the Noble Gases? and ?Neon: Fabulous Fluorescence." Ask students to pay close attention to how different colors are produced from the noble gases.
     
  7. After students have finished watching the segments, give them time in class to design an interesting neon sign and to research how these signs are made. The Web sides listed below have useful information on this topic.
     
  8. For your information, here is a brief description of how neon signs are made.
    • Hollow glass tubes of varying lengths are used to make the different shapes seen in neon signs. The glass is heated on burners that use a combination of a gas and forced air. Four burners are used during this process. Specialized burners produce different shapes. For example, fishtail burners produce angles, and ribbon burners produce curves. Hand torches also are used.
    • To produce color, the gases must be put into the tube. A vacuum is created in the tube, and then as the tube cools, the gases are pumped in from a large tank. Once the gases are in the tube, an electrical current is applied, which excites the atoms and causes them to emit light.
    • Different gases produce different colors. Neon glows bright red. A mixture of argon and small particles of mercury emits a bluish color. Coating the glass with phosphor and then adding argon results in yellow and some shades of white.
    • An artist often creates a sign simply by bending the tubes. Sometimes, however, the artist uses a pattern in creating the design. Then glass is bent over a fire-resistant pattern laid over the burners.

  9. During the next class period, give students a little more time to complete their signs and descriptions. Then ask for volunteers to share their signs. Make sure students explain how to create the signs and their colors.
     
  10. Conclude the lesson by asking students to revisit the notes they recorded at the beginning of he lesson. Now that students know more about neon signs, is there anything they would add to their initial ideas? What do students think can be done to make neon signs even more effective?

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Evaluation


Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:  Students identified all the noble gases on the periodic table of the elements and accurately described several characteristics of these elements; developed a highly creative design for their neon sign; and demonstrated a clear understanding of how signs are made and how the noble gases are used to produce different colors.
  • Two points:  Students identified most of the noble gases on the periodic table of the elements and satisfactorily described at least two characteristics of these elements; developed a satisfactory design for their neon sign; and demonstrated a satisfactory understanding of how signs are made and how the noble gases are used to produce different colors.
  • One point:  Students had difficulty identifying the noble gases on the periodic table of the elements and could not describe any characteristics of these elements; did not complete a design for their neon sign; and demonstrated a weak understanding of how signs are made and how the noble gases are used to produce different colors.

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Vocabulary


argon
Definition: A noble gas that, when mixed with phosphor and stimulated by an electric current, produces a yellow color
Context: Because argon produces an interesting color when mixed with another material, it is often used in brightly colored signs.

neon
Definition: A noble gas that glows bright red when its atoms are stimulated by an electric current
Context: The British chemist Sir William Ramsay discovered neon at the end of the 19th century, but it wasn't until 1910 that the Frenchman Georges Claude figured out how to produce neon lighting.

neon signs
Definition: Brightly colored signs produced by pumping neon and other noble gases through a vacuum tube and applying electricity
Context: Part of the glamour of Las Vegas comes from the many neon signs that call attention to hotels and restaurants.

noble gases
Definition: The elements in Group 18 of the Periodic Table that are odorless, colorless, and not very reactive
Context: Unlike the nonmetals, which are quite common, the noble gases are found only in small amounts on Earth.

periodic table of the elements
Definition: An organization of Earth's elements arranged according to atomic number, or the number of protons an element's nucleus contains
Context: The six elements found in Group 18 of the periodic table of the elements are helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon; together, these are referred to as the noble gases.

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Academic Standards


Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL?s Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks,click here.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
  • Physical Sciences: Understands the structure and property of matter
  • Language Arts - Viewing: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media
  • Visual Arts - Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences provides guidelines for teaching science in grades K?12 to promote scientific literacy. To view the standards,click hereto visit the Web site.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • Physical Science: Chemical reactions
  • Physical Science: Structure and properties of matter

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