Materials List: LPB Cyberchannel video clip (www.lpb.org/cyberchannel) “Junior Electrician: Static Electricity – What is Static Electricity” or another appropriate video, balloons
Background Information for Teachers: At a very basic level, we know all matter is made up of atoms. Static electricity is formed when there is a build-up of electrons. When an object has a build-up of electrons, the electrons look for “a new place to go”. The extra electrons are attracted to atoms in other types of matter. For example, when a balloon is rubbed in certain types of hair, it picks up extra electrons. These electrons are attracted to the atoms in the wall causing the balloon to “stick” to the wall. Remember, the point of the investigation is for the students to experience static electricity, not to completely understand the underlying causes of static electricity.
Elicit student ideas, understandings, and experiences with static electricity (rubbing feet on carpet or trampoline). Following the discussion, view the video clip from Unitedstreaming or use another appropriate video. Following the video, have students share personal experiences and probe for understanding as students engage in discussion.
Investigation Task: Have students discuss what they learned about static electricity from the video clip. Facilitate a discussion about what happened when the girl rubbed the balloon in her hair. Explain that the investigation will be to attempt to recreate how the balloon “stuck” to the wall after being rubbed in the girl’s hair. Assist students planning the investigation. Variables to consider and discuss are the amount of time the balloon is rubbed in the hair, different hair types, and various wall surfaces. Facilitate a discussion on how to manage the investigation, such as group size (partners or small groups), testing balloon on wall prior to rubbing in hair, amount of time spent rubbing balloon in hair (groups may have different “rubbing times”), and the comparing of various wall surfaces and hair types. Have students perform the investigation based on the methods determined by the group. Discuss and compare results.
Alternative Activity: If the LPB Cyberchannel video clip is unavailable, the following websites offer teaching information about static electricity and a detailed lesson on demonstrating static electricity using balloons: