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 Note that this site has been archived and it is possible that the BBC will not continue to maintain it at some point in the future.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

Electricity and Heat

Our final classes in this term exploring The Physical World.

We switched the activities around because I was waiting for a delivery of electrical components but both groups covered basically the same stuff.

Heat

The children love playing the ‘solid-liquid-gas’ game where they pretend to be particles that move around more depending on how much they are heated up. We have done this since we first covered materials science and they often ask to play the game even if it does not relate to our current topic! Each time I introduce the game, I explain how they have to stand together in a fixed position to be a solid, start to jiggle around as the solid heats up, move around a bit more but stay near to each other for liquids, and run around in straight lines as gas particles. It translates the concepts into physical activity, and is wonderful for kinaesthetic learners, although I have to be careful to specify how much space the gas takes up, otherwise we have stray particles that disappear out of visual or aural range! We practice solid, liquid and gas a bit and then I shout out ‘melt’, ‘freeze’, ‘evaporate’ etc. and the children stand in position or move around accordingly.  It also provides an opportunity to talk about sublimation, a less well-known phase transition directly between solid and gas, e.g. for carbon dioxide (dry ice) or iodine.

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We had a discussion about heat sources and the children drew different heat sources on pieces of paper, e.g. the Earth’s core, the Sun, a hairdryer and even a phoenix (we didn’t discriminate against fantastical sources).

The solid-liquid-gas game was a great introduction to talking about conduction, and then other methods of heat transfer. We modelled conduction in a solid. The children stood in a line and I told them there was a heat source (like a fire or a hairdryer) at one end. The child closest to the heat source started to wobble, then the child next to them, and so on, like a Mexican wave. (It probably helped that they had done similar activities at the start of the term for transverse and longitudinal waves.) We didn’t really model convection or radiation but we talked about them and then went to look at a worksheet of different situations where heat is being transferred. (I don’t expect the children in my classes to do much reading or writing but we do have worksheets occasionally.)

Electricity

There is very little about electricity in the NSW primary syllabus. Children in Stage 3 (Years 5 and 6) are expected to understand about sources of electricity and how scientific knowledge can inform the decisions that we need to make about methods of electricity generation and the impact these have on the environment. We covered this part of the syllabus by playing Energy Trumps (pdf) (from the Centre for Alternative Technology in the UK) and, outside of class time, I recommended that children try the Electrocity game online.

In the class I set up various simple DC (direct current) electrical circuits and provided the children with circuit diagrams and a key to the symbols used. The children enjoyed identifying which circuit was which, quickly identified the ones which would not work (due to an incomplete circuit or lack of a power supply) and went on to create their own circuits with simple components.

There is no substitute for letting children actually work hands-on with scientific equipment. I think I am not exaggerating to say that every child enjoyed this class and could have carried on for longer. Maybe another year we will make simple devices for them to take home with them.