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 Note that this site has been archived and it is possible that the BBC will not continue to maintain it at some point in the future.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

Resources about forces (and motion)

 

This post is unfinished but I wanted to get at least some of the resources up on this blog.

Magnetism

We barely touched on magnetism in our classes but this is a good video from howstuffworks.

 

Newton’s Laws

This is my favourite video about Newton’s Laws. They are explained very clearly with simple 2D animation.

If you like learning through songs, here’s a song about Newton’s Laws by the Singing History Teachers on YouTube. (My musical son is not very impressed by the singing but he didn’t mind listening to it once.)

You can try the Khan academy videos and quizzes on Newton’s Laws here.

There are comprehensive lessons about Newton’s Laws on Physics Classroom, with some good animations, but these are only suitable for people who don’t mind a lot of reading.

Similarly, if your children don’t mind worksheets (which mine do, usually) you can download some here from ck12.org.

In our classes, we used the coin on a cup to demonstrate Newton’s First Law. The Exploratorium has a more impressive demonstration by whacking a stack of blocks.

More ideas about how to demonstrate Newton’s Third Law from Groovy Lab in a Box.

Get loads more hands-on ideas about teaching Forces and Motion from the teachjunkie website.

Aeroplanes

How do Aeroplanes fly? Video by Minute Physics

App: Simple Planes. Available on Steam for PC, smart phones and tablets. See video review here. The reviewer used the Steam version. There’s also Simple Rockets from the same developers.

Simple Machines

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Download this infographic from Kids Discover.

Simple Machines app for iOS
 (link takes you to the CommonSenseMedia review).

Energy transfer

Another simple infographic from from kidsdiscover.com, this time about potential energy vs kinetic energy .

I think building different marble runs is a great hands-on way to think about energy transfer. Also playing Mouse Trap or watching videos of machines that put the Americans in mind of Rube Goldberg and the Brits Heath Robinson. See http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/75046352946. I like the one with the glasses playing the ‘Pitagora Suitchi’ motif. (This covers sound as well as forces, motion and energy.)

One of my students took this self-paced four week course about amusement parks on Homeschool with Minecraft. It’s only 6.99 USD and the family definitely recommend it.

Gravity

I left this until last because although it seems simple, understanding gravity can be quite confusing at times.

Here the Veritasium team go out and ask people what gravity is and how it works. Watch Minute Physics explain gravity in a little over a minute, or Bill Nye talk about it for a little over 22 minutes. Watch this video from NASA and/or watch Veritasium talk about whether there is gravity in space. You do need a tiny bit of mathematical knowledge to understand

If you or your child wants to understand more about gravity, you can watch this video from SciShow which contrasts the Newtonian understanding of gravity with the treatment given by Einstein. Then this video from How Stuff Works is pretty good in terms of visualising the curvature of space time depending on how massive an object is.

If you enjoy speculative fiction, there’s a series of short stories called Einstein’s Dreams which explore how life would be different if the physical rules of our universe were different.  Be aware that all these suggestions are way beyond the scope of our current primary science lessons, so don’t worry if you want to skip them.