Today, January 9th, is National Static Electricity Day. Really, who knew right? However, since it is I figured it was a great day to have some science fun with static electricity.
This year for science we have been studying anatomy/physiology and doing a nature study so atoms, protons, neutrons, and positive and negative charges haven’t really come up but, hey, it’s all about exposure to things when you are learning and having fun so I decided we would just have a quick lesson.
First, I read a little from one of our science books on what static electricity is. I read from our Book of Knowledge by Usborne (we love this book, by the way).
I showed Avarie a diagram of an atom and some picture of what effects charged particles have on one another. There was a great internet link in the Book of Knowledge about electricity that helped.
Basically I explained the following:
- an atom is made up of tiny particles.
- protons have a positive electrical charge
- electrons have a negative electrical charge
- neutrons have no charge
- charged particles that are close together have an electrical force
- some particles can become charged when rubbed (electrons are rubbed off of one thing onto another)
- an electrical charge can be help in a material after being rubbed because there is no conductor
- when a material holds an electrical charge the electrical charge is called static electricity
Then we moved on to the fun stuff – demonstrating static electricity.
#2 – Bending water – We took a hard plastic comb and combed through Avarie’s hair several times to “charge the comb” and then slowly moved it toward a stream of water in the faucet and watched it bend the water toward the comb. She thought that was pretty cool.
#3 – Make a spark – We took a Styrofoam plate, attached a handle of Styrofoam to an aluminum baking pan, rubbed the plate on Avarie’s hair a bunch of times, put the plate upside down on the table, took the aluminum pan with the handle and slowly placed it on top of the plate (you have to drop it gently and be right over it so it doesn’t touch anything else), then, without touching the Styrofoam plate, slowly and carefully touch the pan and – bang — spark. Then pick up the pan with the handle and touch the pan – spark! Place the pan again and then touch – spark! You can do this over and over as long as you don’t touch the Styrofoam. The kids had fun rubbing the styrofoam on each other and the carpet and then made their own pan with a piece of aluminum foil and tried it and it worked too. The kids thought it was cool.
#4 – Different materials (triboelectric series) – We tried rubbing different materials on our hair or on each other and seeing if would make a spark or what would happen. We rubbed fur on rubber, paper on silk, paper on balloons, balloon on glass, etc. The kids had fun trying different thing together.
#5 – Light a Light Bulb – We took a light bulb out of the bathroom fixture. We took the balloon and rubbed it on Avarie’s hair vigorously to “charge” it and then I slowly placed it on the tip of the light bulb and it lit the light bulb for just a moment. We did this while standing in the dark bathroom. This was the kids favorite experiment (other than rubbing the balloon on each other to make their hair stand up). They thought it was great they made electricity.
Then the kids started rubbing things on each other and that was the end of the structure – but the kids had a great time and learned a little about static electricity to celebrate National Static Electricity Day!
Have you done any fun experiments along with your study of static electricity? I’d love to hear about them so maybe we can add them to the day next year.