Atom Frenzy – Overview


The following lesson plans have been developed to support primary school teachers of science who are participating in the Einstein-First project. The Year 3 program is the start of a seamless progression that will give students our modern, best understanding of everything around us – a world of atoms, molecules, electrons, photons and phonons (which may be a new concept to you). In Years 4-5 these ideas will be extended with further development of the concept of light as a stream of photons, as well as the modern concepts of space, time, and gravity. In Year 6 students will be introduced to the science of climate, explore evidence of climate change, and investigate the future of sustainable energy.

Students will leave primary school with conceptual foundations that prepare them for further development of a modern understanding of science in middle school.

The Einstein-First project began by developing innovative methods for teaching Year 3 to 10 students Einsteinian physics concepts – curved space, warped time, photons, phonons, black holes and quantum entanglement. The project led to an international collaboration and partnership with education authorities and Western Australian primary and secondary schools.

The project will enable the teaching of Australian science curriculum to be modernised so that all Australian children can share our best understanding of physical reality and, through the international collaboration, bring the new curriculum to children across the world.

To teach Year 3 students about science in a modern context we will introduce five key concepts: atomsBuilding blocks of all matter, consisting of protons and neutrons in a nucleus surrounded by electrons in a cloud., moleculesTwo or more atoms held together by electric forces., electronsTiny negatively electrically charged particles that surround the nucleus., protons,Tiny positively electrically charged particles in the nucleus. and neutronsTiny particles in the nucleus which have no charge.. We engage students in concrete activities first and let the ideas and concepts emerge naturally from these activities.

Students will use models and analogies, including role plays, ‘toy’ atoms and molecules and digital animation resources. Through these experiences, students will develop an intuitive idea about the meaning of these key concepts

How to use this online platform

This is an online platform for the Year 3 Atom Frenzy module. It contains all of the lesson plans, background science learning, and other resources such as activity videos, worksheets, PowerPoints, and tests, required for teachers to present this Einstein-First module to their students. Click on the sections below to reveal overview information for the Atom Frenzy module and follow the links in the blue menu above to view other pages in the module. All resources are linked in their relevant locations throughout the lesson plans, or a collection of all downloadable resources can be found under the ‘Resources’ tab. If you notice any errors please Contact Us to let us know.

The concepts of atoms, molecules, photons and phonons are fundamental in teaching students about solids, liquids, and gases, and the production and transfer of heat. We have developed the Atom Frenzy module to introduce Year 3 students to the states of matter: solids, liquids, and gases, and the Hot Stuff module to introduce heat formation and transfer.

Lessons 1 to 4 of the Atom Frenzy module introduce atoms and molecules, explores evidence of their existence, and the forces that hold them together. This provides the essential starting point for the teaching of these two modules. After this, teachers could then either continue with Lessons 5 to 8 of the Atom Frenzy module or use their knowledge of atoms and molecules to explore heat and heat transfer by introducing the Hot Stuff module. If they choose this integrated approach, they could complete Lessons 5 to 8 of Atom Frenzy at the completion of the Hot Stuff module, or they could mix and match the remainder of the lessons.

The key Australian Curriculum learning outcome for this module is:

A change of state between solid and liquid can be caused by adding or removing heat.

Learning intentions – Students will:

  • know that everything is made of atoms
  • know that atoms are like Lego bricks, where a small number of identical pieces combine together in different ways to make many different things.
  • know that there are different types of atoms and that each type of atom has a different number of protons and electrons, a number and a name
  • know the name and number of four atoms: hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen
  • know that two or more atoms often combine to form molecules
  • use models to explain how atoms and molecules are formed.
  • know four important molecules in air: O₂, N₂, H₂O and CO₂
  • know that scientists have direct evidence of atoms and molecules from modern electron microscopes
  • explain that science involves searching for evidence and describing patterns and relationships
  • know that atoms and molecules are held together by electric forces like the forces between magnets
  • describe their observations of electric and magnetic attraction and repulsion
  • know that heat is the energy of moving and vibrating atoms and molecules
  • explain that heating causes water molecules to vibrate more, cooling slows the vibration down
  • know that water comes as solid (ice), liquid and gas and that adding or removing heat causes them to change from a solid to liquid and liquid to gas and vice versa
  • know that dissolving is like melting: molecules jiggle from the solid surface of sugar or salt and join the liquid atoms that are jiggling more.
  • use models and analogies to explain how water dissolves sugar
  • know that viscosity is a measure of the ‘runniness’ of a liquid
  • with guidance, plan and conduct a scientific investigation to explore viscosity
  • explain that the viscosity of liquids is affected by the forces holding the molecules together, the temperature and the size of the molecules.

Science education research over the last five decades and more general education research on factors affecting learning over the last three decades have identified teaching strategies that, when applied well, result in all students making significant progress.

Lessons should include active learning and be exciting and fun for both the students and teacher. Learning activity types include kinesthetic learning through role play and acting out, brief plays to act out historical perspectives, science investigations, using models and analogies, drawing on digital animations. Hopefully, students engagement and excitement will flow over to the parents, grandparents and other carers.

Strategies that we use throughout the lessons, and we hope become common practice in most teachers ‘kitbag’ of strategies are listed below:

  • Ensuring clarity of purpose: Orienting students to the language and ideas using a ‘See, think, wonder’ visible thinking strategy and specifying clear, concise learning intentions for the whole module and each lesson.
  • Feedback: Administer pre-test to determine prior class and individual knowledge, have frequent ‘checking for understanding’ opportunities, structured and unstructured.
  • Explicit teaching: New concepts will need to be explicitly taught using the routines established by schools. Provide high quality, explicit feedback.
  • Collaborative learning: Almost all lessons provide strong collaborative learning opportunities.
  • Metacognitive strategies: Use the explanatory power of science to help students understand and develop an intuitive understanding of their world.
  • Differentiated teaching: Many of the lessons include extension activities and exercises.

See our Key strategies in teaching Einsteinian physics document for more details


The Einstein-First curriculum resources were developed with the support of funding from the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council and the following partner organisations: the Department of Education Western Australia; Association of Independent Schools Western Australia, Science Teachers Association of Western Australia, and Gravity Discovery Centre.

Additional funds have been generously donated to The University by private companies to further develop and implement the program. The companies include: