Grade Level: Upper elementary
Program description: The accumulation of electrons or the movement of electrons defines which type of electricity students encounter every day. Static electricity is understood through the use of the Van de Graff generator which sends objects flying through the air without touching them. Brave students experience the sensation of electrons raising their hair. Use of the magneto generator guarantees the concepts of conductor and insulators, open and closed circuits, and the power of electricity will never be forgotten by the courageous kids who volunteer or the students watching their faces and reactions to this "shocking" experiment. Simple switches and light bulbs illustrate parallel and series circuitry. The energy behind a small Tesla coil and a 1,000,000 volt Tesla coil will be contrasted when an adult volunteer is placed in the Faraday cage to have lightning shot directly at the cage. The power and dangers of lightning are experienced so close that children will smell the ozone created in the laboratory
Note: Curriculum alignments based on requirements for Hamilton County, Tennessee including 4.14.spi, 4.14.spi.4, 5.14.spi.1, 5.14.spi.5, 5.14.spi.6
Pre-visit activity - Explore Static Electricity
Large baking tray
Clay or Play-doh
Large plastic bag
Metal lid or coin
1. Press down a large lump of clay in the middle of the baking tray to make a handle. Press it down hard to make sure it is firmly stuck to the tray.
2. Place the plastic bag down flat onto a hard surface. The bag may need to be taped down to remain flat.
3. Put the tray on the plastic bag. Hold on to the clay and rub the tray around and around on the bag for about 30 seconds. Don't touch the metal!
4. While holding the clay, pick up the tray so that it is not touching the plastic. Hold the metal lid or coin close to one corner of the tray. Did you see a spark jump from the tray to the lid? Turn off the lights to see the spark more clearly.
The Outcome: The friction created by rubbing the metal tray with the plastic causes the electrons from the plastic to jump to the tray, giving the tray a negative charge. When the metal object is held close to the tray, an attraction occurs between the negatively charged tray and the lid or coin. The flash is created by electrons moving between the two surfaces.
Research how electricity gets from the power station to the home or school. Contact the local electric power company and ask to have a representative visit the class and explain how electric power is generated for your city and how it gets from the power plant to the school.