The Magic of Static

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Science, Physical Science

Grade 2- 5

Objective

Students will have fun investigating the magic of static electricity.

Directions

Lesson Preparation
  • Set up stations for students to rotate through using the information on the data sheets. If possible, set up duplicates of each station to have fewer students at each of them.
  • Test each of the stations and adjust the setup as needed to match the students' ability levels.
  • Establish a rotation system which will allow at least 15 minutes at each station.
  • Arrange for adult or older student volunteers to be assigned to each station to assist the students as needed, if they are not able to do the work alone.

Activity
  1. Introduce the students to each of the stations. Explain the instructions which they are to follow as they work at each of them. Demonstrate how they are to use the materials at the various stations.
  2. Divide the students into groups of three or four students and assign each group to begin at a different station. Allow sufficient time for each group to explore the materials at their station before moving them on to the next. This lesson should be spread over more than one day to enable the students to benefit from experimenting with the materials and sharing their ideas.
Closure
  • When all students have visited each of the stations, have each group demonstrate one of the exciting new discoveries they made as they investigated static electricity.
  • Invite another group of students to visit the classroom and have your students show them the discoveries they made about static electricity.
  • Use the transparency (page 20) to review the lesson.

Particles and Electric Fields
Normally, an atom has an equal number of electrons and protons, and so it is electrically neutral. If an atom gains some electrons, it becomes negatively charged. If an atom loses some electrons, it becomes positively charged. Atoms that have an electric charge--either positive or negative--are called ions.
Every particle is surrounded by an electric field. Charged particles exert a force on one another, even when not touching, because each electric field extends into the space around each particle.
Uncharged Particles
If two balloons are uncharged, they do not exert any force between them.
Particles with Unlike Charges
If one balloon is charged positively and the other negatively, their electric fields interact and pull them together.
Particles with Like Charges
If two balloons are each negatively (or each positively) charged, their electric fields interact and cause them to move apart.

Resources

  • balloons
  • small wool duster or piece of wool cloth
  • 8'' x 10'' (20 cm x 25 cm) clear plastic boxes used for pictures (available where picture frames are sold)
  • paper circles from a hole punch (optional: confetti)
  • Styrofoam packing peanuts or pieces
  • bottles of water
  • buckets or basins
  • data sheets and instructions for each workstation (pages 22-25)

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