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NSTA peer-reviewed journal for elementary teachers

March 2013 Volume 50 Issue 7


Electric! Static hair brought to a whole new level of learning Supercharging lessons with a virtual lab

March 2013

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What’s really going on in Electric Circuits?

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electricity concepts for students.

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Cover Images provided by: Brandon Beasseaux Table of Contents Image provided by: Electrical Solutions



Volume 50 Issue 7

2 Science + Children

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7 Joe Krajcik 16 Ted Willard 36 Sarah Carrier/ Ted Rex 40 Jefferson Stewart/Daniel Vincent 44 Jessica Horton,Rita Hagevik, Bennett Adkinson, Jilynn Parmly

50 Vanashri Nargund-Joshi, Jean S. Lee

56 Amanda J. Phillips, Catherine Scott, Catherine E.Williams

61 Charles Eick, Shawna Tatarchuk, Amy Anderson

Science + Children 3

“Sometimes you let THE Y

ou may have experienced a small electric

shock called “static electricity” when you brushed your hair and then touched a cat or another person, or pulled socks out of the dryer. The static electric shock occurs when electrons rub off materials and accumulate on our body, and than we touch a positively charged object. Not every environment allows static electricity to build up in people and objects we touch. Asking questions about experiences with natural phenomenas is a part of the National Science Standard A: Science as Iquiry, and learning about the properties of materials and electricity is part of Standard B: Physical Science. Learning about particles of matter that we can observe. 4 Science + Children

The Early Years: Static Electricity, the Shocking Truth! Research and Consversation on Pre-K to 2 Science

By: Peggy Ashbrooke

HAIR do the talking!�

Article imahergy provided by: Brandon Beasseaux

When childten get a shock from sliding down a plastic slide, touching a doorknob,or getting a hello kiss from theit parents at dismissal time, theu become interested in learning how the sensation happens. Providing proper materials, and the education through proper vocabulary; children can learn benefits from exploring the different effects of static electricity. Children can gather evidence and observe patterns. Peggy Ashbrooke is the author of Science is Simple:over 250 Activities for Preschoolers and teaches preschool science in Alexander, Virginia.

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Exploring Static Electricity als:

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lid with e l t t Bo ) lastic orks well P r a w Cle f thin bottle arge • L Liter soda ) pieces o all mm sm (1 (5-10 r, Mylar ( gs), l l a ba • Sm sue) pape chip type of m s i o t r ( f d any s cut shape m tray, an oa Syrof yar n ol, lk, wo i e s p e a r • T ces of Pu brics; a e oil • Pi cotton Fr uminum f ;al and wrap size) t c i t s a tuden ief pl S h r c r o f e k ls r t) (hand f Materia nd class a ) ion a rawin • D cumentat (optional (do mera al Ca t i g i • D

Objectives: Students will gain experience feeling a variety materials and observing the effects of static electricity.

Procedure: 1. Gather the fabric and other materials ahead of time. Make a sample Static Electricity Discovery Bottle and try it yourself. 2. Have children cut and tear tissue paper, Mylar, Stryofoam tray, and yarn into smaller pieces. While they are cutting, have the children feel and describe the materials and guess what they are made of. For this activity, categories like paper, plastic, and wool/cotton are sufficient. 3. Each child can put one or several pieces into the bottle for a total of 1030 pieces. Put on the lid and tape around it to symbolize that it should stay closed and set the bottle aside.

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4. Pass Around the fabric, plastic wrap, and foil for students to feel textures. Support their growth in vocabulary by using additional words when you describe the materials. 5. Reintroduce the Static Electricity Bottle, by asking: “I wonder if anything will change if I rub the bottle with this piece of fabric?� Begin with the cotton, and have children rub the bottle with each of the materials, checking the position of the pieces. If the static charge is rubbed on the bottle, some of the small pieces will be attracted to the sides. The work can be documented through photography, or the children’s drawings. 6. Tell sudents the bottle will be available in the classroom for them to explore its behavior with different materials: fabric, hair, rugs. Resources: Watson, S. 2008. Discovery Bottles: A Unique, inexpensive science tool for the K-2 science classroom. Science and Children 45 (9): 20-24

Children can learn the benefits from exploring the different effects of static electricity.

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In the News Short news items of interest to the scientific community article imagery provided by

Can Breakfast Make your Kids Smarter?

Recent research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing has found that Children who regularly have breakfast on a near- daily basis had significantly higher full scale, verbal, and performance IQ test scores. In one of the first studies to examine IQ and breakfast consumption, researchearchers examined data

8 Science + Children

from 1,269 six-year-old children in China, where breakfast is


highly valued, and concluded


that children who did not eat

play a role. After

breakfast regularly had 5.8

a whole night of fasting,


ag ep

points lower verbal, 2.50 points

r ov id e db breakfast serves as a means

lower performance, and 4.6

to supply “fuel” to the brain.

points lower total IQ scores than

Meanwhile, social interaction at

children who often always ate

breakfast time with parents may

breakfast after adjusting for seven

promote brain development.


sociodemoggraphic confounders.

Mealtime discussion facilitate


cognitive development by

has been

in which dietary and lifestyle

offering children the opportunity

linked to increasing

patterns are initiated, and these

to enxpands their vocabulary,

IQ through childhood,

habits can have important

practice synthesizing and

which is related to

immediate and longterm

comprehending stories, and

decreased childhood

implications,” said lead author

acquire general knowledge,

bahavior disorders, better

Jianhong-Liu, associate professor

noted the authors.

career satisfaction, and

“Childhood is a critical period

at Penn Nursin. “Breakfast habits

yk it c hen ca

The researchers suggest that

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socioeconomic success

appear to no exception, and

schools play a role in stressing

in adults, breakfast

irregular breakfast eating has

the importance of eating

consumption could

already been associated with a

breakfast by delaying the

ultimately benefit long term

number of unhealthy behaviors,

start time and/or providing

physical and mental health

such as smoking, frequent

breakfast to allow students to

outcomes and quality of

alcohol use, and infrequent


life.” said Liu.


from the cognitive benefits

- University of Pennsylvania School

At age six, a child’s cognitive ability is rapidly developing. Both the nutrional and social aspects


of eating before a morning curcciculum. “Because adequate nutrition in

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A Classroom model illustrating a closed circuit for advanced students. By: Sarah Carrier and Ted Rex

Article cover image provided by:


any science concepts are too large, too

five minutes, challenge students to light the

small, or too far away for direct observation, and

bulb. Some groups will be successful, and

electricity in one elementary school subject that

this activity will provide an initial experience

is both complex and invisible, thus encouraging

with closed circuits to complete the path of

the use of models and inference. The following

electrons. Discuss Designs that resulted in

activities can help students in fifth grade and

lighting the bulb. Introduce the concepts of

beyond begin to a build a base for learning about

energy source(battery), electrons, and closed

electricity in a “hands on/mnds on” fashion.

circuit. Ask the students to consider what is happening in the battery and wire system that

Materials: • 2 drinking glasses of the same size

can make the bulb lights. Many of our sutdents responded that the battery sends its power to light the bulb through the wires.

• 1 bottle of clean water for drinking

Describe the role of electrons, discovered

• 2 straws: one thin, and one wider,

in 1897, flowing from positive ternimal of the

same length • 1 piece of nylon rope • signs labeled battery,switch, and bulb

battery to the negative terminal. Reinforce the idea that battery stores the energy and has the potential to send electrons flowing through the wires, but until the circuit is complete the electrons do not flow. In order to model the meaning of potential


energy, hold a ball of clay above your head

Introducing the lesson by telling students that

and drop it. Continue doing this, and ask

they will be learning about electrical circuits.

the students why the clay falls when you let

Ask students what they know about electricity

it go. Many students respond that gravity is

as a diagnostic assessment of students’ prior

causing the clay to fall to the ground. Lift the

knowledge. Accept all student ideas and refer to

clay again, and as you hold clay above your

student concepts through out the lesson. Provide

head, point out that when you release it, the

each group of three students with a battery, bulb,

movement of the falling ball is clearly seen,

and wires to allow discovery time. After about

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but before you let go, it has the potential to move. The potential energy within the clay changes to kinteic energy when the clay is released. The principles of potential energy differences that allows the electrons to flow through a circuit. As soon as the circuit is complete, the potential energy differences between the two ball positions help model the differences that allows the electrons in the wires to flow. Provide students a second opportunity to light their bulb. Student-to-student discourse followed by the sense-making conversation and scaffolding by the teacher combine to help students visualize the need for closed circuits in lighting the bulbs. Switches can be produced in a second attempt of lighting bulbs, further reinforcing the electron flow and closed circuits. Relating switches to home light switches will further connect students’ lives.


Take a soft nylon rope and have the students hold the rope to form as large a circle as your rope will allow. Explain to them that this closed circle of rope in their hands represents a circuit. With the rope in their hands, show the students that our rope is not moving; we have no electrons flowing. Encourage the students to infer from their previous investigations what the circuit needs in order to get the electrons flowing. Some students will recognize that a battery or some other energy source is needed. With the need for battery understood, make one student the battery by attaching a label to him or her that reads “battery.� Have that student begin to pull the rope while other students, holding the rope loosely, allow the rope to pass through their hands without any restrictions. Have the students hypothesize why the battery is causing the current flow(electrons), presenting 12

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“ It is important to be able to concentrate energy so that it is available for use where and when it is needed. For example, batteries are physically transportable energy storage devices ...�

Battery poster - created by Remsphoto

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an opportunity student discussions that will


help the teacher formatively assess student’s

With the “battery” working, take this

understandings. This allows you to identify

opportunity to explain how the battery is not

early on whether the students (1) are able to

creating the electrons within the circuit. This

name the energy source as having potential for

is a commion misconception. The electrons in

the flow of electrons, and (2) understand that

the circuit exist inside the wire, not the battery.

the closed circuit completes the energy flow.

Student love their roles as electrons in the wire

Introduce labels to two or more students, the

because they all contribute and experience the

“switch” and the “bulb.” Have this student who

model of energy flow. Students can quietly hum

is the bulb open his or or her eyes and mouth

to represent their role as electrons and stop

wide to represent a lit bulb as the rope flows

humming when the battery is removed or the

and the circuit is closed. Take turns removing

switch is open. Stand in the middle of the circle,

the battery or having the SWITCH student

asking questions such as “Why is the energy

open the switch ( by removing the tape on

flowing?’ Relate the demonstration with the

the rope) and the bulb should close his or her

clay ball’s potential energy to the electrons and

mouth and eyes as the electron flow ceases in

battery in the rope model. The rope model helps

an open circuit without an energy source.

student visualize electric current and flow.

“Touc h a sc touch ientis t and a chil you d.” - Ray Bradb ur y 14 Science + Children

and battery in the rope model. The rope

voltage wires, so transformers are used to

model helps student visualize electric current

“step down� or decrease the power.

and flow.


Evaluate: During the rope activity, the students will

An exstension to learning basic electricity

be circled around the teacher, for constant

flow is to introduce resistance. Ask if

formative assessment. By soliciting students’

students have noticed electric wires of

developing ideas, we can identify and

different sizes ranging from high voltage

address potential misconceptions as students

overhead cables to smaller exstenson cord

relate the tope model to their experiences

wires. Descibe the roll of transformers

with wire abd bulbs. As a summative

decreasing the electricity to smaller

assessment, ask students to draw and

household wires. Transformers transform

label models of an electric cicuit in their

or change electricity levels, usually from

science notebooks.Students should label

high voltage to lower voltage. Household

the battery as the energy source that allows

appliances cannot use the high levels of

the movement of the electrons in the wires

electricity that travel long distances on high

direction of flow from postive to negative.

Sarah Carrier is an assistant professor as North

Resources: National Research Council (NCR). 2012. A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, D.C. National Academies Press.

Caroline State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ted Rex is an elementary school teacher at Poe Montessori School in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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Getting Wired on safety How to provide a safer science learning environment

By:Ken Roy Article imahergy provided by:

First 18

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A sk a middle or high school student what he or she remembered or liked best about doing science at the elementary level, and you will often hear the three words batteries and bulbs.Hands-on elementary grade level activities involving batteries,lightbulbs, wires,switches,and more commonplace and an exciting way to have students study basic concepts of electricity and energy. Students are able to learn and apply these basic concepts firsthand by exploring the effect of various circuit configurations,differences between conductors and nonconductors,various factors in creating electrical resistance,changes in light intensity, construction of electromagnets, production of current and static electricity, and other hands on activities.

A Battery of Safety Precautions How can elementary teachers better plan for hands-on electricity activities with safety in mind? A good place to start is the following list of safetut precautions:

Make sure students have the appropriate eye protection. Safety goggles are required. when doing activities involving wires. • Instruct students that only teacher assigned and supervised electricity activities are to be done in the classroom. They should never pursue electrical current practices at home unless supervised by an adult. • Remind students that any electircal investigations should be done in a dry area away from water resources, like sinks or aquariums. • Make sure students have that wires will get hott over time when connecting them to battery terminals. • Remind students that electrical devices, such as lightbulbs might still be hot after turned off, and can cause burns. • Tell students to never cut and open up batteries. They contain acid, which can cause skin burns. Never heat batteiries, they will explode. • Instruct students to look and tell when cords are frayed and cracked.

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electrical chords on the floor or draped

The Magical Mystery Electrical Tour

across desks/tables can cause tripping

An additional activity that serves as a follow


up to classroom electricity work is a home

• Children should be advised not to

electrical safety. The NSTA book Exploring

Make sure students are aware that

put objects into an electrical outlet. In

Safely encourages students to become safety

primary grades, teachers can request

experts in the home as well as in school. The

that unused outlets be safeguarded

following tips are provided for consideration.

with plastic inserts. Also make sure

It should be noted that these activites should

electrical receptacle outlets are

only be conducted under parents or guardian

groundfault interrupter(GFI) protected

supervision and might also be listed on the

when working near water. This protects

statement acknowledgment form. Included in

the user from beng electrocuted.

the list are:

• Inspect plugs to make sure they are three prong (grounded) for small electrical tools such as hot plates, small motors, and so on. • Teachers should provide and have students and parents or guardians sign a “student acknowledgment” form

• Make sure outlets are not broken • Never stick anything into a electrical receptacle. • Check the wattage of lightbulbs and make sure not too high. • Don’t use multiple exstension chords on same circuit.

that notes the basic safety precautions

• If appliance trips break, turn off until fixed.

needined during electricity activities.

• Never use electrical appliances near water. • Don’t use outdoor tools near rain.


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Getting Charged Up on Safety Electricity activities at the elementary level are both exciting and a great opportunity for learning and applying key ideas in science. These understandings will provide a strong foundation for future learning in electricity and energy in phsyical science and physics at upper grade levels. As with all hands on activites, teachers need to take the time to review safety precautions for a successful and memoral learning experence. Ken Roy is a director of environmental health and safety for Glastonbury Public Schools in Gastonbury, Connecticut and NSTA’s Chief Science Safety Compliance Consultant/Author.

The importnace of safety is key to the existance of safe science. Glove and warning symbol prvided by NSTA funding.

“Education is safety”

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March 2013 Volume 50 Issue 7

NSTA peer-reviewed journal for elementary teachers

Science Plus Children