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Science - 5th Grade
Standard 4 Objective 1
1 class periods of 30 minutes each
Balloons are used to help students explore static electricity.
For the each student:
Static electricity exists when an object has lost or gained electrons. All matter is made of atoms. The nucleus of an atom contains protons, having a positive charge, and neutrons having no charge. Electrons, which have a negative charge, spin around the nucleus. Usually the protons and electrons are in balance; however, when an object loses some of its electrons, it is positively charged, and an object with extra electrons is negatively charged. Both objects now have static electricity. The electricity is at rest; it does not flow through the object as in current electricity.
Examples of static electricity can be found in our environment. In cold, dry areas, static electricity is more evident. If the area is humid, it is more difficult to observe or create static electricity. Some examples of static electricity are walking across a carpet and touching a doorknob, brushing hair so that it crackles or follows the brush, rubbing a hard rubber rod with fur, rubbing a glass rod with silk, rubbing a balloon on clothing, or static cling created by clothes tumbling in a dryer.
This activity uses working definitions. A working definition is a definition determined by students. It may or may not be completely correct; however, it should be used and corrected by the students as they gain more experience with and understanding of the concept. The strength of a working definition is that it is an indicator of student understanding and can be used by the teacher to guide further experiences.
There is a science misconception that lightning is an example of static electricity. This is not true. Particles in clouds rub together and create static electricity in the clouds. Particles build up both positive and negative charges. When the charges jump to the ground or to another cloud, the energy is neutralized. The flash of lightning seen is an example of current electricity.