Sunday, January 25, 2015


The kids did a very detailed, extensive electricity unit last year. 

They started out by watched School House Rock - Electricity, Electricity (available on youtube!) for a nice overview of the topic. 

Since electricity can be dangerous, they next learned about safety rules.  They read the "Safety Rules Around Electricity" chapter from one of the What Your x Grader Needs to Know books and watching the Bill Nye - Safety Smart video (Lots of Bill Nye is available on youtube, but not this one from what I can tell - check your local library!).

Bill Nye, The Science Guy: Safety Smart Science: Electricity (Classroom Edition)

They read about the various ways electricity is generated including batteries, in plants that burn coal, oil or gas, by water or by wind turbines.   They learned about the various ways electricity is used around our homes.

They did some reading about Thomas Edison in What Your First Grader Needs To Know and took a field trip to Edison's museum in West Orange, NJ to check out some of his inventions.  (We had gone there before, in 2013 when we first started our study of New Jersey. )

They then learned about static electricity and the transfer of electrons that causes it. 

They did an demonstration using a balloon and a small piece of wool to statically charge the balloon and cause it to stick to the wall and divert a stream of water.

Next they did a demonstration where they were able to make salt jump and dance.    They started out by choosing a hypothesis - will the salt jump off the table and into the spoon?  will it do nothing?  clump together?   Vicki chose jump off the table into the spoon, and George chose clump together.  They then conducted the experiment.  

They started by sprinkling a small amount of kosher salt onto a clean table or plate.  They then rubbed a plastic spoon on their hair quickly for 20 seconds.  They then held the spoon over the salt and observed what happened.    They salt stuck to the spoon.

Their next demonstration involved separating out salt and pepper.   The idea was to mix a small amount of salt and a small amount of pepper on a piece of paper.  Then comb their hair quickly 20 or 30 times and hold the brush over the mixture.   Unfortunately this one didn't work so well.

They watched the Magic School Bus Gets Charged.   While watching they filled in a video guide from (which has guides for Bill Nye, Eye of Nye, Magic School Bus, and Liberty Kids) and answered questions about what things they already knew that were confirmed by the video, what new things they learned and some fill in the blanks questions.

They learned about lightning next and did a demonstration to make artificial lightning.   Using a large baking dish with a piece of clay inside to move it, the dish was rubbed on a sheet of plastic for about one minute.    The dish was then taken into a dark room and a coin placed near one corner.  They were able to see the contact between the coin and dish cause a spark.

Next they learned about how electricity generates light and heat, and made a bulb light up just by attaching it to a battery with aluminum foil. 

They learned about loops, and open and closed circuits.  They did a worksheet that showed various circuits and they had to determine if they would work or not (whether it made a loop or not).

To learn more about circuits, they did some activities from our Snap Circuits set. We have the S-300R Snap Circuits set.
They made an Electric Light and Switch, a DC Motor and Switch, a Laser Gun, a Tone Generator, and an AM Radio with Transistors.  
Next they learned more about batteries and used a battery to light a small bulb and run a small motor. 

They learned about switches and made a switch using prong fasteners and a paperclip.   By creating a loop from one prong fastener to the battery, then the battery to a small motor, the motor to the other prong fastener, they could turn the motor on and off by using the paperclip to complete the circuit.  They then used this same idea to create burglar alarms for their rooms.  Using a couple pieces of foil taped to the door and frame and connecting them to a battery and a buzzer, they were able to make an alarm that would buzz whenever the door opened. 

That lasted about two days before they mysteriously disappeared. 

They continued the lessons on circuits by learning how flashlights work, and using multiple batteries in a line to get more power.

They next learned about conductors and insulators.  This lesson led to a lot of questions from Georgie about where it was safest to be in lightning or if there were live wires (in a car or out of a car, if you were wearing certain shoes, if you were standing in water).

They made another loop using batteries and a light bulb, and placed various objects in the loop.  If the circuit was competed and the light lit, the objects were conductors.  If the light didn't turn on, they were disrupting the circuit and were insulators.   The tested materials included: a penny (conductor), paper clip (conductor), crayon (insulator), foil (conductor), nickel (conductor), balloon (insulator), pencil (insulator), eraser (insulator), toothpick (insulator), tagboard (insulator), thumbtack (conductor), chalk (insulator), marker (insulator), ruler (insulator), book (insulator), button (conductor - most have been metal), cloth (insulator).

Next they learned about Electromagnets by reading the section from What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know and making their own electromagnet using a battery, rubber band, copper wire, a bolt and several paper clips.  They then did an experiment that showed how an electromagnet only worked when the electrical current is connected.

They finished up by learning about the different forms of energy and making a windmill generator from a Green Science kit.

They used a bunch of books during their study.  They learned about Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and loads of information about electricity.

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