The first lesson uses active learning experiences, guided by the lecture slides, to introduce the concepts of atoms, molecules, and cells. With the help of the teacher, or by viewing the accompanying YouTube video, students examine an impressive 3D protein structure of hemoglobin in the PyMol molecular modeling program. During this activity, students themselves discover the bonding patterns of the most important biological atoms: hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. Even early on, students begin to notice periodic trends, relating element position in the periodic table to element properties, forming the foundation for the rest of the curriculum. Students then use Molymod molecular model kits to build several important gas molecules, and work in groups to perform a handheld chemical reaction using the models. Students learn about the composition of the atmosphere at the molecular level, and through specially-designed animations, visualize how oxygen binds to the iron of hemoglobin’s heme, to move oxygen from our lungs to all the cells in our body.

Concepts learned in this first lesson support the NGSS at various grade levels, and connect the physical sciences to biology. Even in this introductory lesson, students gain a more sophisticated understanding of what the world is made of, which will benefit them in future science classes. Experiencing what molecules are first hand is an exciting, rewarding, and memorable experience for the students.

To see a video demonstration summarizing what the teaching from a Biochemistry Literacy for Kids class looks like, please watch this short video.