Resources about Electricity

Looking for resources about electricity? I’ve gone down many rabbit trails to find the ones I think are the best. See below for videos, hands-on activities, computer games, card games, websites, books and occasionally a worksheet or two. Most of these resources are suitable for middle primary to lower secondary children. The articles at the end are mainly aimed at adults but would be suitable for children who are interested and who don’t mind reading at a high level.

Please comment below if you tried and appreciated these resources, or if you have other resources which you recommend because you have used them before.

Static electricity

To understand static electricity, try this video from How Stuff Works. Or watch the video below where Hank Green from SciShow explains electrostatics as part of his series on the Four Fundamental Forces of Physics.

 

The Exploratorium in San Francisco has a great hands-on activity where you make an electrophorus – a device for storing charge.

Or try some computer games. There seem to be a few computer games based on the idea of changing the charge on  a particle to move it around a maze with charged obstacles. This one from Molecular Workbench has only one level. Make sure you press Run to get your game started! There’s another one from MIT here but I didn’t manage to get it to run on my computer.

For more information about electricity, including static electricity, try Funology. This site is text based, but the images are also helpful.

Also look at BBC GCSE bitesize – text with some animations. Very good explanations. Note that this site has been archived and it is possible that the BBC will not continue to maintain it at some point in the future.

Current electricity

Here is a largely text based explanation on Explain That Stuff, with helpful images.

Simple circuits and electronics

The Electronics Club website is simply and clearly laid out and very helpful, particularly for  understanding circuit symbols.

In my class I used this handout on TES Australia (also on TES Connect), plus a key with relevant circuit symbols, to see if children could spot errors in simple circuits. Note: You have to register to get access to any TES resources, including the free ones.

Electricity and magnetism

Hank from SciShow explains magnetism with lots of fast talking, not so many visuals.

Try this ‘Circles of Magnetism’ activity from the Exploratorium. If you have enough magnetic compasses it is a great way to see the connection between electricity and magnetism.

A World without Magnets is an infographic about the uses of magnetism.

Electric motor

Once you realise that electricity and magnetism are two aspects of the same thing, you can use electricity to generate motion due to magnetic attraction and repulsion.

Here’s Hank again demonstrating an extremely simple electric motor.

Or if you want a slightly more complex one you could buy this one from Mad About Science. I know they say it is the World’s Simplest Motor but they clearly haven’t been watching YouTube as much as I have.

Electric generator

Electric generators also make use of the interrelation between electricity and magnetism, using a moving magnetic field to generate electricity.

Veritasium video of a very simple electric generator.

 

Electricity (power) generation

National Geographic has a lesson plan for students to think about electricity generation. http://education.nationalgeographic.org/activity/electrical-energy-source-destination/

I didn’t use the lesson plan above in my Nurture Learning classes. As I said in my last post, we played Energy Trumps cards in the class and I also suggested my students tried the Electrocity game online. The Energy Trumps game came from the Centre for Alternative Technology in the UK, so some of the categories are specific to the UK. I haven’t seen a similar resource for Australia, which is a shame. The link takes you to the CAT resources page. Scroll down to the Energy Trumps subtitle for pdfs of the cards and instructions.

Electricity and safety

Electric Kids lesson plans and  worksheets from Endeavour Energy, written to cover the NSW Science and Technology and PDHPE syllabus for Years 5 and 6 (Stage 3).

Children’s books about electricity

Oscar and the Bird for preschoolers and early primary51j1zrjqxvl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

 

Electrical Wizard (How Nikolai Tesla lit up the world). Aimed at 7-10 year olds.

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The Manga Guide to Electricity. For age 9 and up.

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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Before William Kamkwamba’s determination to build a windmill for his village in Malawi, only 2% of Malawians had electricity or running water. This Young Readers Edition has been edited for children from about Grade 5 level upwards; there is another book with the same title aimed at children at high school.

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More activities

For more activities, including loads of printables, look on teachingideas.co.uk

Articles

CSIRO news article about the dangers of fossil fuels

KQED article about storing power from solar electricity generation

KQED article about the Tesla battery factory

Some resources for inspiring your kids about science

These mostly cover the first four weeks of my classes on ‘Changes to the Earth’s Surface’. We get through a lot of cool stuff, as you can see.

General Science, and Evolution

“Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding” (book) by Bernie Nebel. This is the first book in a series of four, aimed at primary-aged children. I like his books and his approach to teaching science. This book is designed in four strands, roughly Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Earth and Space Science. He doesn’t shy away from exposing young children to high-level concepts, but each lesson builds on the one before and he always says what prior knowledge he expects.

I started my pre-school science classes using this book. I have deviated from his structures as I find it hard to follow anyone else’s lessons too rigidly. I also find there is too much use of ‘discussion’ pre or post the hands-on activities. But I still use many of his ideas.

Building Foundations Of Scientific Understanding

Understanding Science

Understanding Science (1)

A website created by the University of Berkeley, in California.The xenosmilus activity we did in Week 1 was recommended on this site. It has loads of resources and links. I haven’t looked at them all. However, I particularly like their ‘How Science Works’ flowchart. It has been adapted for different ages, although those with pre-readers should note that all versions of the flowchart are text-heavy. It would be good to have a purely pictoral version – maybe that’s feedback we could leave on the site.

How science works  The flowchart

I also like their notes for teachers, that are divided into different stages, and suggest what is best to focus on for different aged children, taking into consideration what they will be interested in at each level.

Understanding Science (1)

Understanding Evolution

Created by the same people as the above Understanding Science site, with some of the same links and resources, but focussed specifically on Evolution.

Palaeontology

The Paleontology Portal.

Another wealth of information and links, although not set out as well as the above sites, and with a very North American focus.

‘Bones Rock!’, by Peter Larson and Kristin Donnan (book). Aimed at children, but packed full of information, not just about the discipline of palaeontology but also the scientific method. Printed by Invisible Cities Press, ISBN 1-931-229-35-X.

bones rock book

“Digging into Deep Time”, by Paul Willis and Abbie Thomas. Aimed at adults. Takes a small number of key Australian sites and uses them to explain the history of living creatures on Earth.

Solar System and Cosmology

George’s Secret Key to the Universe, written by Lucy and Stephen Hawking. Any child who is interested in astronomy or the solar system would do far worse than to read or to listen to this book. My boys had this as a bedtime story a few years ago and we all learned a lot about the solar system. I spotted a copy in Desire Books, Manly, our local secondhand bookshop. If you’re lucky it may still be there.

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One of our families brought along the ‘Big Picture’ book by John Long to our house. This would fit into either of the Cosmology or Earth Science categories. It is a great book about the history of our universe, providing a pictorial overview of what happened when.

The Big Picture

Earth Science and Geology

As mentioned previously, Cracking Up is a great book explaining weathering and erosion.

cracking up book

Short promotional video about sand grains (for younger group)

“Earthly Treasure” by Kate Petty and Jennie Maizels is a pop-up book full of information about Earth Science and minerals. (Look out for other pop-up books by this duo on many other subjects.)

Earthly Treasure book cover

Earthly Treasure inside

Beautiful TedEd video with pop-up book to explain Pangaea and movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates.

What is a volcano? Also briefly includes plate boundaries.

Underwater volcanic eruption

Extreme weather

The Hottest Place on Earth from MinuteEarth.

Note: Many of these videos were first found on The Kid Should See This, which is a great blog for children who learn well from videos. I have given up following the blog myself, because there are just too many videos posted for me to keep up, but I still use it to search for specific videos from time-to-time.