About Atomic Attire – Wearable Element Model Project

Atomic Attire – Rutherford and NEW Bohr model 

Atomic Attire© is an element research project that culminates with each student creating a unique t-shirt or apron depicting the history, uses, and model of an element. Design and illustration are completed by students with fabric markers on prescreened t-short or apron. Teacher directions, student plan, example projects, ordering information, and additional resources to manage the project are available below.

  • Available in elliptical Rutherford and the NEW round Bohr model.
  • Prescreened with the outline of the element research information required.
  • Design completed by students with fabric markers.
  • Available in 
    • T-shirt – $6
    • 33 in Apron – $7 NEW
    • 27 in Apron with Pockets $8 NEW 

Atomic Attire How-to video

Atomic Attire©_Directions for the Teacher

After introducing elements and you feel confident your students know how to interpret information on a Periodic Table, provide each student with the ScienceWear Atomic Attire research project description and show the “How to” video available at ScienceWear.net.  You can generate even more excitement for the project if you wear your own element shirt or apron as you go over the expectations. Decide if this will be a shirt or apron project.  Distribute the Collecting money and ordering form to help you collect money and sizes.

Part I: Researching an Element – I recommend two class periods for this portion, with each student having access to a computer or laptop.

This is a brief summary of how I manage the research for this project.

  1. Prior to research, I cut up a periodic table into individual squares and put them in a bowl.
  2. I provide each student with a plan sheet (outline of information required for the project) and have each student draw two element squares from the bowl.
  3. Students access a virtual periodic table (example) https://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ and briefly read about their two choices, choosing one element for their project to complete the plan sheet. *The element not chosen is returned to the bowl.
  4. Students complete the plan sheet and search for suitable clipart that could be used to trace and illustrate their element’s history, properties, and uses. The clipart is printed and attached to the plan sheet. Remind students clipart may need to be resized before printing. The clipart will be traced on the fabric of their wearable so simple images need to be selected.
  5. Plan sheets, along with their proposed illustrations, are submitted to the teacher for grading and final approval.


Supplies Part II: Creating the Atomic Attire Shirt or Apron – Two 45 minute class periods are recommended for this portion of the project.

Materials needed by each student

> Atomic Attire completed plan sheet

> Atomic Attire apron or t-shirt

> Extra-fine or fine black sharpie marker for writing information and tracing images

> Large piece of butcher paper, poster board, smooth cardboard, or foam board

> Jumbo paper clips, bulldog clips (4/student)

> Fabric markers for coloring (1 set per group)

Optional materials:  Iridescent fabric paint, Q-tips (disposable paint applicators) 1/student, and 1 oz. condiment cup or aluminum foil for paint 1/student


  1.  Return student’s completed plan for use as their reference while working on their garment.
  2.  Distribute the garments and have students neatly write their full name with a sharpie marker in a predesignated area.  (I usually designate the inside bottom seam of shirts and bottom right-hand corner of aprons).
  3.  Have students place a folded sheet of butcher paper or poster board under the fabric to prevent bleed-through.  Using clips, secure the fabric and paper together to prevent slipping. *Helpful tip for using markers on t-shirt fabric – Since t-shirt fabric is stretchy; some teachers prefer having students insert a ½ sheet of foam board inside their shirt, centering the area to be designed over the foam. Demonstrate how to smooth the fabric over the board taking care to make the fabric as taut as possible before securing around the edges with bulldog clips. This makes the fabric a bit easier to label and color with the markers. The foam boards found at Dollar Tree can be cut in ½ and the boards are easily stored and reused!
  4.   Students use the sharpie to very carefully copy the information from their plan to the fabric.  Clipart is placed under the fabric and traced.  Fabric markers are used to color the illustrations.
  5.  When all labeling and coloring has been completed, the paper and clips are removed from the project and the each completed project will need to be heat set. This will ensure the marker is permanently bonded to the fabric and prevent fading.

Heat Set the Marker – Depending on the age of your students, you will need to decide in advance if you are going to have your students do their own heat-setting or have an adult volunteer do this.

There are two ways to heat set fabric marker colors.

  1. Set an iron to the cotton setting. Place the shirt or apron on a flat surface. Lay a piece of fabric (like a tea towel or pillowcase) over the areas that were designed with markers. Iron over the fabric covering the project, using a back-and-forth motion, for 4 minutes.
  2. You can heat set by placing the project in a clothes dryer set on the hottest setting for 30 minutes.

My tried-and-true method for heat-setting is #1.  By making the use of the iron a part of the science safety skills I teach (handling hot objects), I have allowed students as young as grade 5 do their own heat setting.

Optional but recommended. 

Provide each student with a Q-tip and a small “glob” of iridescent diamond glitter paint on a piece of foil.  The paint can be dabbed over the top of any areas of the project where they want to add a bit of sparkle – like stars, radioactive symbols, electrons, or flames.  The iridescent paint dries clear and quick. Teacher Tip: Avoid “glitter frenzy” by controlling the amount of paint each student receives!

Washing and Care Information

The color may bleed through during the first wash.  To prevent bleeding during the wash cycle, wash the garment in cold water separately and machine dry as soon as the wash cycle completes.


Teaching in a Low Socio-Economic Status School District

*Personal testimony – I have done this project in school districts with a high percentage of low socio-economic disadvantaged students. Collecting $5 for the shirt or $6 for the apron has been met with minimal resistance.  I believe this is due to ridding parents of “project material” stress and witnessing their child’s excitement for a project that will be theirs to keep and wear.

Want to take it to the next level?  Host an Atomic Attire Fashion Show!

Let students invite parents, teachers, and others who may be interested in attending.

Clear an aisle in your room (or use a stage at your school) and make a runway. I use red bulletin board paper with a couple of big atoms drawn where each student model needed to stop and pose for the photographers. The Atomic Attire Master of Ceremonies (you could have a couple of students, parents, or colleagues with excellent speaking voices alternate for this) at the podium with a brief narration for each element.  The models are lined up, in order, ready to make their way down the Atomic Attire Runway.  Designate a “paparazzi area” for the photographers.  Every student is photographed in their attire.  I highly recommend the show be videotaped!

Atomic Attire Fashion Show Video