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Electricity - What Am I Made Of?

Electricity can be very dangerous to living things because living things are conductors. That means that electricity can pass through us.

Conductors are materials that allow electricity to flow through them. What are some things that conduct electricity?

Conductors allow the flow of electricity. Other materials do just the opposite and stop the flow of electrical current. These materials are called insulators. Insulators are materials that stop the flow of electricity. Can you think of any?

Pretend you plug in your vacuum. Now pretend you touch the cord after the vacuum has been plugged in. Did you get shocked? Of course not. Why not? You did not get shocked because the cord is covered with rubber.

Rubber and plastic are insulators. Even though the wires in the vacuum cord carry a powerful amount of electricity, you can safely hold the cord because rubber and plastic do not allow electricity to flow through them.

Classify it!
In this activity you will classify some common objects as either insulators or conductors. A conductor is something through which electricity will travel easily. An insulator is something through which electricity does not travel easily. Electricity will only go through an insulator if the electricity is super-powerful, like a lightning bolt or the electricity in power lines, and then it usually destroys the insulator. You will not experiment with electricity that powerful. It would be very dangerous to try these activities with house current, for instance. The electricity you will be using is from one small battery.

*The purpose of this activity is to review what you know about circuits and experiment with insulators and conductors.

The part of the circuit you will be focusing on in this activity is the pathway.

Question:
What type of materials are conductors? What type of materials are insulators?

Materials:

  • Materials that you think might be an insulator or a conductor. Examples: crayons, paper clips, pencils, staples
  • "D" size battery
  • Small light bulb (use the prepared Christmas light bulbs from the circuit building activity)
  • Two Strips of aluminum foil (3 cm x 10 cm)

Procedure:

  1. Place the object to be tested between the end of the battery and the end of the Christmas light wires.
  2. Bring the metal button on the base of the wires so that it touches one side of the object you are testing. The other side of the object should be touching the end of the battery with the button on it. If the light lights, the object is a conductor. If it does not light, it is an insulator.
  3. List each object as a conductor or insulator, or source of electricity

Extension:
Try using a variety of conductors and insulators to make a series and parallel circuit.

Warning:
Do not test anything in your mouth, such as your braces or fillings. While the test will work, this is one part of your body where the electricity from a battery is strong enough to be very unpleasant.

Think about it!
What did you learn about insulators and conductors? Based on your experiments, list at least three materials that are conductors and three materials that are insulators:

Insulators Conductors
   
   
   

If electricity is treated with respect, it is not scary at all. Electricity can be fun, exciting, and very helpful when used correctly.

utah state board of education This Sci-ber Text was developed by the Utah State Board of Education and Utah educators.