When you hear the word model, you probably think of a toy-like car or airplane that is a smaller version of the real thing. Scientific models are a representation of objects, systems or events and are used as tools for understanding the natural world. Models use familiar objects to represent unfamiliar things.

Models can help you visualize, or picture in your mind, something that is difficult to see or understand. Models can help scientists communicate their ideas, understand processes, and make predictions. The chart below shows examples of what models can represent.

Models can represent. . .
objects that are too small to see Model of an atom or a cell
objects that are too big to see Model of the planets
objects that no longer exist Model of a dinosaur
objects that have not yet been invented Prototype models such as a model of a robot
events that occur too slowly to see Model of mountain formation
events that occur too fast to see Model to predict an earthquake
events that have yet to happen Models of weather systems