Electrostatics: The Shocking Truth

In today’s lesson, students learned the fundamentals of static electricity and its role in everyday life. Static electricity is caused by the build-up of unbalanced charges (lightning, socks tumbling in the hot dryer, shuffling across carpets in wool socks in winter) that release a spark when they return to a neutral or ground state.

We then explored static up-close, using “charged” balloons (rubbed on the students’ heads or with pieces of felt) and homemade electroscopes to play with static electricity and observe its properties.  We also demonstrated a Wimshurst machine, which really “sparked” their interest.

Additional Information:

What exactly is a Wimshurt machine?  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wimshurst_machine

For more information on lightning research and safety information, check out NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory:


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Our Young Pre classroom is for ages. This age group is working