A Bright Idea!

Today’s lesson was all about electricity.  Students learned what electricity is made of, and how it relates to atoms, the building blocks of all physical matter. We discussed that electricity is the flow of electric charge, usually electrons, called current and reviewed how batteries work.

Students were then challenged to make a complete circuit to light up a light bulb.  They really had to take charge and include a light switch in their circuits.  Finally they made some shocking conclusions about which materials conduct electricity and which don’t by testing them in their circuit. Our simple circuit consisted of a battery, light bulb and wires.  We then added in the different insulators and conductors to the closed circuit to see which materials would keep the light on. Students found that metals were good conductors, while paper, wax and rubber were insulators. This is the reason why we have plastic, an insulator, around our electrical cords so we won’t get shocked!

Students then learned how electrical circuits work and their usefulness in controlling the electricity we use everyday. They were introduced to more complex circuits. Two types of complex circuits are called series and parallel circuits, which help direct electricity in different ways.   A series circuit consists of multiple components connected in a single path for the electrical current to flow along. In a parallel circuit, the electrical current is split over more than one closed loop path.

Students enjoyed creating and investigating series and parallel circuits with batteries and light bulbs. They also learned that a switch works to either keep the system closed (allowing the flow of electricity to continue, for example to keep light bulbs lit), or to open the system (stopping the flow of electricity, turning light bulbs off).  We finished up with a discussion of circuit breakers and fuses and how they are designed to safely break a circuit that is overloaded beyond its capacity.

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