The best way to learn about science is by performing your own experiments, but not every family has a full science lab in their garage. Science is everywhere and you don’t need to visit a lab to teach your kids all sorts of things using static electricity. These static electricity activities are fun to incorporate into homeschool or do as an after school activity.
Create a Static Charge
First teach your kids how to generate a good static charge. You can create static by rubbing things together that lose electrons easily such as hair, wool and fur with things that gain electrons easily such as plastic combs, inflated balloons, vinyl, Styrofoam, and polyester socks. Also, keep in mind that the person who gathers the charge has to be the person to use the object. If someone else touches it, the static electricity will discharge and you’ll have to start from the beginning.
Sort Pepper from Salt
Get a small bowl along with some salt and pepper. Pour some of both into the bowl and mix them together. It doesn’t matter how much of each you put in, but make sure you put in a good amount of each. Once the bowl is ready, have your kid hold the charged object above the bowl and lower it slowly until the pepper starts flying up to cling to the object.
This happens because a negatively charged object can attract neutral objects and the light pepper doesn’t have much weight to hold it down. The charged object will also pull the salt up if you get it close enough, but pepper flies up first because salt grains are more dense.
Move Bubbles Around
For this static trick you’ll need a smooth sheet of glass or plastic, a straw and some bubble solution. If you don’t have any bubble solution, you can make your own using dish soap and a little water. Once it’s ready, spread your bubble solution on the sheet and blow some big bubbles using the straw. Have your child bring the charged object near the bubbles and they’ll follow the object around. Since the soapy water is attracted to the charged object, when it’s in a big bubble you can see it move around.
Create a slow stream of water either by turning your faucet on low or by poking a small hole in the bottom of a disposable cup. As the water flows out, bring the charged object close and watch as the water bends towards it. Some lone drops may even fly up and around, following the shape of the electric charge. Just be careful not to touch the water or it’ll neutralize the charge.
Once you’re done playing with static electricity, making it go away can be a science lesson in itself. Static only happens when the air is dry and the right materials interact, so showing your kids how to rid your home of accidental sparks can be its own lesson. After all, playing with static electricity is fun, but it’s less fun to get a shock every time you reach for a door handle.
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