Today is National Static Electricity Day!!! January 09 2015
Static electricity is a lot of mysterious fun. It is part of the sixth grade science curriculum and fascinates the most insouciant of pre-teenagers! It is irresistibly interesting. Of course, most children have experiences of static electricity from a very young age. Rubbing a blown up balloon against one’s head to make the thing stick to the wall, or touching something and getting a snapping shock, or watching hair stand on end against a coat or a sheet just out of the dryer are common enough experiences.
Recapitulating these static miracles in a science lesson with twelve and thirteen year olds is an uplifting experience! A levity enters the classroom and students laugh at the ridiculous hair styles that arise in their classmates as they become conduits for static electricity.
Taking a polythene rod and rubbing it with a dry cloth or many dry cloths of different substance – like wool, silk, cotton, polyester, linen. If the room is dark the students can see the sparks as the rod becomes negatively charged from the electrons gained from the cloths. The cloth, on the other hand, loses negative electrons and becomes positively charged. Students in thinking about this, and after studying magnetism just before this, can possibly deduce that the balloons that stick on the wall after rubbing on hair are attracted, similar as in a magnet to and object (the wall) that has few negative electrons and many more positive electrons than the balloon. Opposites attract and the balloon stays put!
It’s especially rewarding to reach out to a friend in the darkened room and witness the sparks fly. Like a living picture of relationships in grade six! Comprehending the puzzles in electricity and the positive and negative charges lays ground work for algebra, physics, and relationships, too! Benjamin Franklin almost died twice in his attempts to comprehend. Others who repeated his experiments around the globe were not so lucky and the key in the lightning storm became their last fantastic view of life on earth. However, respect for Franklin as a scientist is what made France take the colonies seriously to come to their aid in birthing a nation. So it helps in history, too. Static electricity is everywhere and clearly helps everything. Try some!
We have a science kit for this if you want to take a look! http://bit.ly/static_e_kit