Static Electricity--Thunder and Lightning
In this quick activity, students "create" lightning and thunder using plastic and wool. They make observations about the sights and sounds and develop hypotheses regarding why the sparks and crackles happen.
Context for Use
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5)
Description and Teaching Materials
Objective: to demonstrate how static charges produce sound.
-Clear plastic sheet or plastic comb
-Scissors to cut plastic
-Ruler to measure plastic
-Large paper clip
-Piece of wool: scarf, coat, or sweater made of 100% wool
- Measure and cut a plastic strip about 1 inch X 8 inches (2.5 cm X 20 cm.)
- Use the clay to stand the paper clip upright on a table.
- Wrap the wool around the plastic strip and quickly pull the plastic through the cloth. Do this quickly at least three times.
- Immediately hold the plastic near the top of the paper clip.
Results: A snapping sound can be heard.
Why? Electrons are rubbed off the wool and onto the plastic. The electrons clump together until the total accumulation of their energy is great enough to move them across the span of air between the plastic and the metal clip. The movement of the electrons through the air produces sound waves, resulting in the snapping sound heard.
Teaching Notes and Tips
II. PHYSICAL SCIENCE
C. Energy Transformations
The student will understand basic electricity and its application in everyday life.
2. The student will investigate static electricity.