Educator Info: Cling to Me
Electric generators pull atoms apart and generate hundreds of thousands of volts of electricity. But rubbing your feet on the carpet while wearing socks can do the same thing! Make some static electricity and see what it can do.
Lesson at a glance
Students explore what factors affect static electricity. Why does a balloon make hair stand on end? What is the relationship between the charged item and the item with which it interacts?
Students Will Know:
Static electricity – An electrical charge that piles up on an object instead of flowing through it.
Electron – One of the particles that make up an atom. Electrons are negatively charged.
Proton – One of the particles that make up an atom. Protons are positively charged
Students Will Be Able To:
Describe the properties of static electricity.
Investigate how the size of the balloon and the amount of time of rubbing a balloon affect the amount of objects attracted to the balloon.
Illinois Learning Standards
State Goal 11: A.2a; A.2b; A.2c; A.2d; A.2e
State Goal 12: C.2a; D.2b
State Goal 13: A.2b; A.2c; B.2a; B.2b; B.2c
Middle / Junior High
State Goal 11: A.3a; A.3b; A.3c; A.3d; A.3e; A.3f; A.3g
State Goal 12: C.3a; D.3a; D.3b
State Goal 13: A.3c
There are two types of electric charges, positive and negative. Charges that are the same (positive and positive or negative and negative) push each other away, or repel. Charges that are opposite (positive and negative) draw one another together, or attract. An object with an excess of positive charges attracts negative charges until the numbers are equal again.
Static electricity results from unbalanced charges that move abruptly from one place to another, rather than flowing in a current. In an object with no charge, all the atoms have their normal number of electrons. If some of the electrons are then transferred to another object by the two objects rubbing together, touching, or coming within close proximity of one another, the charges become unbalanced. One item loses some of its electrons to the other item and becomes positively charged (i.e. it has more protons than electrons). The item that received the electrons becomes negatively charged (it has more electrons than protons). Since the two items have become oppositely charged, they are attracted to one another.
The term “static” can be misleading. When the charges build up on an object and there is a path for the electricity to follow (i.e. the objects touch or come very close to one another), a brief flow of electricity in the form of a spark occurs.
Brainstorm other ways you can change the balloon, such as dipping it in water or another substance, putting something inside the balloon, etc. What hairstyling products will prevent static electricity on a balloon?
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