Teach static electricity activities and electrify your science instruction! First, students explore with eight balloon-based activities. Then they conduct a full-blown experiment using a fair test.
Ms. Sneed Finds Some Static Electricity Activities
Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, sat at the side table with her teaching partner. “Next up, teaching static electricity. Last year, we just read about it. This year, I want to do it,” she said.
On cue, Mr. Frank opened his laptop. He turned the screen toward Ms. Sneed so she could look on.
“Hey,” she said, “look at that set of static electricity activities.” She pointed to a cover with a green balloon. “Click on it and let’s see what it’s all about.”
“Hmm,” said Mr. Frank. “It definitely fits the way we like to teach. Plenty hands-on activities. Lots of inquiry. And I love the way it incorporates a fair test at the end.”
“Let’s do it!” his teaching partner said. “It will make a great addition to our physical science curriculum.”
She Tries Some Static Electricity Activities in Stations
The following week, Ms. Sneed carried a dollar store bag into her classroom. In it, materials for the static electricity activities could be found: balloons, string, ping pong balls, salt, pepper, bubbles, and an empty Diet Coke can.
After she printed off the activity sheets and cut them apart, she arranged the materials in stations.
Just then, students began filing into the classroom. “Today,” she told her class, “we’ll be doing some static electricity activities.”
“Yay!” came the cry. (Ms. Sneed’s class loved science labs.)
“We’ll work in our science groups. Each will begin at a different station. Before we begin, each of you will blow up a balloon, tie it off, and try the first activity, Balloon & Hair, at your desk.
Balloon & Hair
After Ms. Sneed gave every student a balloon and the corresponding lab sheet, they got busy.
“Ms. Sneed,” called one boy. “I’m not very good at blowing up balloons!” She circulated, helping students inflate and tie their balloons.
Then she watched as they held the balloons near their hair, rubbed it on their hair, and held it near others’ hair. As they explored, kids wrote what they observed on their lab sheets.
After discussing their findings, Ms. Sneed let her students begin the stations.
Balloon & Wall
At the first station, students blew up a new balloon and tied it off. They held in near the wall and curtains, but nothing happened. Then one student rubbed it on his hair.
“Hey, Ms. Sneed!” he called. “Look, once I rub this balloon on my hair, it sticks to the wall and curtains.”
At the second station, students blew up two balloons and tied string to them. Holding the balloons by their strings, they brought the balloons close to one another. The balloons softly collided, but nothing else happened.
Then a girl rubbed one balloon against her hair. The next time they held the balloons near one another, they pulled toward one another. “Hey, it’s like magnets,” commented one student.
Finally, another girl rubbed the second balloon against her hair. As the group held the two balloons near one another, they pushed away from one another. “Whoa! This is like science fiction!” one child yelled.
Ms. Sneed circulated around the classroom as students explored five more stations:
- At the third station, an empty aluminum can lay on its side. As students held a charged balloon near it, the can rolled toward it. Students giggled as they led the can across the table with the static electricity on the balloon.
- Kids at the fourth station held a charged balloon near a ping pong ball. Conversely, the ball was repelled by the balloon. Kids at that station pushed the ball along in front of the balloon.
- Students at the fifth station fiddled with salt and pepper. The balloon attracted pepper but not salt. That was strange. However, if they held the balloon really close to the mixture, the salt was attracted as well.
- At the classroom sink, a group brought a charged balloon close to a slim stream of water. Surprisingly, the water bent!
- Kids at the final station blew bubbles. When they held a charged balloon nearby, the bubble moved toward the balloon. If it got too close – pop!
The Class Debriefs
By the end of the exploration, everyone was smiling – even Ms. Sneed. Using hands-on static electricity activities for kids really made her enjoy teaching.
Now it was time to debrief with a few questions:
- What happened to the balloon when you rubbed it across your hair?
- Which materials attracted/repelled the charged balloon?
After the discussion, Ms. Sneed helped her students build solid understanding of static electricity with two passages. She loved the way this unit let her do double duty – teaching science and informational text at the same time.
The Kids Conduct a Static Electricity Experiment
The next day, Ms. Sneed prepared more static electricity activities for kids. This time, they would perform a fair test. First, she pulled four pairs of gloves and a package of balloons from her teacher bag. Then, using a paper punch, she punched out more than 200 circles of paper.
When her students filed in, she called out, “Let’s get settled down, everybody. Today we’ll do a science experiment.”
As usual, her class responded with “Yay!” They really loved science.
“We’ll work in our science groups. After I hand out the lab sheets, you can get busy. Ones, grab one glove from the table. Twos, take a balloon, blow it up, and tie it off. Threes and fours, count out exactly 20 paper bits from this pile.”
Enjoy Teaching Static Electricity Activities
In no time, everyone was working. Then Ms. Sneed sat back and looked at them with satisfaction. Yes, this set of static electricity activities hit a home run. Now her students were ready to tackle electrical circuits.