My fourteen year old daughter has been working through the Middle School Chemistry course available online from the American Chemical Society. She was working on a section featuring Ionic Bonding. It’s a pretty good little program with multimedia and experiments or activities for almost every lesson. Because we do a lot of Science at our house, we’ve covered some of this before, so we tend to mix it up and expand a little bit sometimes. We also have a membership over at the Happy Scientist which we use to supplement when we can. Nothing over there on ionic bonding specifically, but there’s some simpler stuff about molecules if you need it.
One of the activities was to make molecule models, one of NaCl, and one of CACl2. These are usually made with styrofoam balls and toothpicks. Last time we did a molecule unit, we used gum drops, because we are simply not a styrofoam ball sort of family. We didn’t have any gumdrops on hand, so my daughter used fondant to make her models. She dyed the fondant various colors to represent different elements. Green for Sodium, Yellow for Calcium, and Blue for Chlorine. You can make your own color choices when you make your own.
|Top: NaCl Bottom: CaCl2|
And then she ate them. . .
Fondant is fairly good for molecule modeling. You can dye it with food color and it’s reasonably easy to make, at least by the recipe in our gingerbread book. Here’s a Similar Fondant Recipe. A lot of sites have crazy looking recipes that do indeed look difficult. I’d avoid them and stick with the simple version. NB: Don’t substitute margarine for the butter. It will make the fondant clay too soft. For an edible clay that dries harder and can be kept longer, use Pastillage or Marzipan.
If you really don’t want to make sugar clay, you can buy it:
The best thing about these edible clay/candy options is that you don’t have to worry about storing or disposing of them after the lesson is done!