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Grades 3-5


In this lesson students will be involved in exploratory investigations to learn about static electricity using inexpensive "grocery store" items. Video segments will be used to verify student's experiments and predictions. Students will communicate their experiences with others by collecting and graphing data.
ITV Series
Science for You #13: Where Does Electricity Come From?
Electricity and Magnetism #1: Static Electricity
Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:
Pre-Viewing Activities
Initiate a discussion with students to access their prior experience with static electricity. Examples might include: clothes sticking together when removed from a dryer, shock felt when touching an object or person after walking across a carpet, lightning. INSERT video Science for You #13: Where Does Electricity Come From?

Viewing Activities
BEGIN at visual cue of light bulb as the narrator says, "It's incredible how many devices in our daily lives use electricity in some way." To give students a specific responsibility while viewing tell them to watch for a way to produce static electricity. PLAY. STOP as narrator says, "...nature's way of producing electricity." EJECT tape.
ACTIVITY Pass a balloon to each student. Depending on age and ability of students balloons may already be inflated and tied or you may have students do this themselves. Challenge students to stick balloon to wall. Instruct students to leave balloons on wall and return to seats. INSERT tape Electricity and Magnetism #1: Static Electricity. FOCUS student's viewing by explaining that amber is a rock formed from fossilized tree sap and that a pith ball is a small ball formed from the interior pith of a cornstalk. Tell students to notice the reaction of the amber and the pith ball to static electricity. PLAY video from beginning. PAUSE tape after narrator says, "Why in the world is it that both amber and the comb attracted things after we rubbed them with a woolen cloth?" Discuss with class. Relate to the previous activity of the balloon (negative charge) on the wall (neutral charge).
ACTIVITY Pass one piece of black construction paper to each group of 2 students. Have students retrieve balloons from wall and return to seats. Place one tablespoon of sugar in center of black paper. Have students renew the balloon's static charge by rubbing. Hold the balloon about inch above sugar, bend over so eyes are at level between balloon and sugar, and watch the reaction between the balloon and sugar. After allowing time for observation flip balloon with finger to remove sugar from balloon. Throw away sugar but save the paper and balloons. Ask students if sugar behaved like the pith ball. RESUME tape and have students listen to verify their discussion and experiment responses. PAUSE video when narrator says, "The result as you saw was an object with a negative charge attracted to an object that was uncharged." (Sugar had neutral charge, balloon had negative charge.)
ACTIVITY Pass one tablespoon of salt to each pair of students. Have students renew the balloon's static charge by rubbing, then hold the balloon about inch above the salt, position eye level between the balloon and salt, and watch the reaction. Ask students to describe what they saw. Some salt will stick to the balloon, some salt will bounce from the balloon to the paper. Flip balloon the finger to remove salt. At this point you may dispose of both salt and black paper. FOCUS student's viewing by telling them to listen for an explanation of why the salt reacted differently with the balloon than the sugar. RESUME video. PAUSE at narrator's question, "What do you think will happen next?" Allow class discussion. Relate to reaction of salt to balloon. Will comb attract the pith ball? Will comb repel the pith ball? RESUME video to verify student responses. PAUSE video with definitions of both attract and repel showing and after narrator reads the definitions. To solidify previous activities with these definitions have students read definitions in unison and then ask students which substance's reaction, sugar or salt, would match each definition. If your students keep science journals you might want to have them copy these definitions.
FOCUS student's viewing by saying - Let's see how well you understand these ideas. Be prepared to predict these experiments' results. RESUME video. PAUSE after narrator asks, "Will the balls attract each other or repel each other?" Have students raise hands to predict attract or repel. RESUME video to verify student predictions. PAUSE video after narrator asks, "Can you figure out what's happening?" Discuss possible explanations with class. FOCUS student's viewing by asking them to listen to find out what happened to the girl's hair and then watch to see another use for the Van de Graff generator -- making miniture bolts of lightning. RESUME and PLAY to end. These bolts are difficult to see in one viewing so rewind and play to let students view this segment several times.
Post-Viewing Activities
An important science skill is being able to communicate scientific information with others. Remind students that they've learned about and experimented with static electricity in this lesson. Tell students that now they'll use math skills to share information with others. Give each group of 4 students pieces of foil, confetti, and Rice Krispies. Have students produce a static charge on their balloon, then hold the balloon inch above each item. Record the number of pieces of each kind of material picked up by the balloon. Graph the information with the x-axis being the type of material (foil, confetti, Rice Krispies) and the y-axis being the number of pieces picked up by static on the balloon. Label graphs with a title. Have groups share finished graphs and post in classroom. If students have the math ability to average numbers, the individual students could experiment independently and report their data to be averaged, compiled and graphed in groups of 4.
Action Plan
Invite the school's computer specialist, if available in your school or district, or a computer technician to discuss with students how static electricity can cause problems for a computer.

Write to Alberto-Culver Inc. to request information about the discovery of the product Static Guard and how it removes static electricity from clothing and other items..
Write to 3M Company (or any other diskette manufacturer) for information on the correct use and storage techniques for diskettes.
Research to find out how lightning is produced. Visit the Weather Bureau or invite a meteorologist to class to discuss the incidence of lightning strikes in the local area. Use the Internet or Link 19 to research and request similar information from other locations.
Contact HSSMTI (High School Science Math and Technology Institute) at the University of Missouri-Kansas City to request a high school student to visit the classroom to demonstrate and lead hands-on electricity activities for students.
Suggest to students that they take the balloons home and experiment with other items found in the home to observe their reactions to static electricity. Seek parents' permission first. Possible items to try: flour, cornstarch, powdered sugar, baking soda, baking powder, spices, cereals, pieces of Styrofoam.

Continue study of electricity by exploring current electricity.

Research the formula for estimating the distance of lightning from the viewer by counting the number of seconds between the lightning strike and the sound of thunder. Try to use the method during a thunder storm.

Research mythology for references to lightning. Find its symbolic meaning. Research Native American stories relating to lightning. Create original art depicting a story from mythology or Native American folklore.

Have students write their own version of a story from mythology or a Native American story to be shown with the art project. Or have students create their own original stories and illustrate with their own original art work.

Social Studies:
Research the lives and discoveries of Michael Faraday, Alexander G. Bell, Thomas A. Edison, Pliny the Younger, Guglielmo Marconi, Luigi Galvani, Alessandro Volta, and Benjamin Franklin.

Master Teacher: Mary Parker

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