LESSON 3: What is electricity?
1. What is electricity?
2. What are some vocabulary words associated with electricity?
3. What are conductors and and insulators?
Read to students different books on electricity. (Here is a small sample of books available for teachers on an elementary level)-
Discovering Electricity, Rae Burns, Troll Associates, 1982
Electricity, Keith Brandt, Troll Associates, 1985
Junior Science Book of Electricity, Rocco V. Feravolo, Garrad Publishing, Illinois, 1960
Show students different examples of electricity. How do these pictures show electricity? What are ways that electricity are used in the classroom? In your homes?
The first picture is from http://ftschool.org/fourth/science/electric_magnet.html . The middle picture is from http://library.thinkquest.org/11924/electricity.html and the last picture is from http://homepage.mac.com/tonyfarley/science/physics/physics.html
1. Have students find out what electricity is by researching it on line. They can find information at the following websites: http://brainpop.com/science/electricity/ http://library.thinkquest.org/11924/ewhat.html http://reprise.com/host/electricity/default.asp
The following website has a wonderful interactive component where the student can create an electron moving around the nucleus of an atom: http://colorado.edu/physics/2000/waves_particles/wavpart2.html
This excerpt explains what electricity is. It was taken from
But what is electricity? Where does it come from? How does it work? Before we understand all that, we need to know a little bit about atoms and their structure.
All matter is made up of atoms, and atoms are made up of smaller particles. The three main particles making up an atom are the proton, the neutron and the electron.
Electrons spin around the center, or nucleus, of atoms, in the same way the moon spins around the earth. The nucleus is made up of neutrons and protons.
Electrons contain a negative charge, protons a positive charge. Neutrons are neutral -- they have neither a positive nor a negative charge.
There are many different kinds of atoms, one for each type of element. An atom is a single part that makes up an element. There are 118 different known elements that make up every thing! Some elements like oxygen we breathe are essential to life.
Each atom has a specific number of electrons, protons and neutrons. But no matter how many particles an atom has, the number of electrons usually needs to be the same as the number of protons. If the numbers are the same, the atom is called balanced, and it is very stable.
So, if an atom had six protons, it should also have six electrons. The element with six protons and six electrons is called carbon. Carbon is found in abundance in the sun, stars, comets, atmospheres of most planets, and the food we eat. Coal is made of carbon; so are diamonds
Some kinds of atoms have loosely attached electrons. An atom that loses electrons has more protons than electrons and is positively charged. An atom that gains electrons has more negative particles and is negatively charge. A "charged" atom is called an "ion."
Electrons can be made to move from one atom to another. When those electrons move between the atoms, a current of electricity is created. The electrons move from one atom to another in a "flow." One electron is attached and another electron is lost.
And this is what electricity is!
to complete the following vocabulary database:
For a blank electricity vocabulary database, click here.
Now that the students know what electricity, circuits, conductivity, and
insulation are, it's time to do experiments! The following will teach
students how to make a circuit, and test for conducting and insulating
materials. (For student samples and pictures of these activities,
Lab Activity 1:
Lab Activity 2
Problem: How can we test for conducting and insulating materials?
Hypothesis: We think when we pass an electric current through different materials if the material makes the bulb light, then it is a conductor; and if the bulb doesn't light, then it is an insulator.
Materials: battery, battery holder, 3 pieces of copper wire, light bulb and socket, bag of various materials to be tested (paper clip, paper fastener, rubber band, plastic tile, button , glass marble, paper, wood, nail, screw, pencil, eraser, styrofoam, etc.).
Procedure: 1. Make a circuit as in Lab Activity 1 except don't connect the second wire to the light bulb socket. 2. Using the third wire, connect that to the other end of the light bulb socket. 3. You now have to open ended wires. 4. One at a time, take each material from the test bag, and touch each end of the open wires to the material. Be careful not to let the wires touch each other! 5. If the light bulb lights up, the material is a conductor. If not, the material is an insulator.
Observations: Complete the following chart:
Conclusion: We learned that all metals are conductors and things like rubber, plastic, glass, and dry wood are insulators.
Follow up Activities:
1. Have students research about Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and other scientists who based their inventions on the use of electricity. Let them write about one invention that uses electricity. A good site to find research for this is http://ftschool.org/fourth/science/electric_magnet.html
2. It's always a great learning experience for children to show their parents what they learned. Have them make an electric circuit at home and test different objects for conductivity and insulation. If necessary, lend them the materials for this assignment.