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What size world do you live in?


What size world do you live in? What size world does one of your blood cells live in? Your DNA? The water molecules you drink? How about the mountain you might climb? Using benchmarks to compare objects can help us keep track of size and scale as we work to reach and understand the nano world.


How big is big? How small is small?  Explore different sizes and scales of objects you might have seen or heard about by comparing and sorting cards with pictures. Then, use NanoScale-Me to test your ideas.
Hmm, what do you think is in the picture below? 
  1. How big is big? How small is small? In comparison to what object are you tiny? In comparison to what object are you huge?
  2. Write down your ideas and give some examples in your notebook.
  3. Share your ideas with another participant. 
  4. With a partner, sort the image cards in the envelope from smallest to largest.
    • Now identify different "worlds" of size by grouping together images that might be found in the same "world."
    • What would you name your groupings? Why?
  5. Share your groupings with another team. How do they compare?
  6. Visit the NanoScale me! interactive and predict and explore different worlds.

Why this works

Developing mental images and working with manipulatives (both virtual and physical) will help you make sense of the size and scale of objects, from atomic-scale to macroscopic. Identifying reference objects that correspond to the numbers and units and ultimately their size and scale will help you form enduring understanding of the range of objects that exist in the world and how they relate to each other.

Wrap Up

Headline News!
Write up a newsflash that includes two or more objects from the same world. Work to show your new knowledge of scale in your headline.
  • Example: News Flash! Virus invades the micro world of a cell!
  • Edit each others' news for strong science... and share out!

If you have time, add your own objects to the card set. What do you want to see included? A white blood cell? A dust mite (an itty bitty insect that many of us are allergic to)? Research items from the micro/nano/pico worlds and create a card. How does it fit with the rest? As a class, sort your new cards into different worlds.


  • Card Sort cards
  • Headphones (optional)
  • Nanoscale me requires Flash. Make sure that this is downloaded onto computers prior to lesson.


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Based on

Cynthia Long,
Nov 27, 2012, 8:08 AM