I’m thinking about teaching my students the electric slide to go along with our current unit…hmmm… 🙂
So January is all about electricity and magnetism. We spend the month learning what electricity is, how it relates to magnetism, and other important topics in this area of science. This is a really fun unit that I enjoyed revamping when I got hired at JCS! One of my favorite parts is all of the fun experiments that the kids get to do with their lab partner. These are beneficial in so many ways. For instance, the students learn how to work together on a task, follow directions (or else something could go majorly wrong!), and treat materials appropriately.
Anyways, to start the unit, each student decorated a light bulb for our “electrifying” classroom bulletin board:
We start out the instructional material by learning about important inventors related to the field of electricity, such as Edison, Bell, and Faraday. I send the students on an “Inventor Scavenger Hunt” around the classroom. Each student receives a list of questions about the 5 inventors we focus on and must match an inventor with each question by searching for the facts around the room:
One of their first homework assignments for the unit is to make a list of every item they use from the time they leave school until the time they arrive back at school the next morning that involves electricity in some way. It is always fascinating to see what these kids use! Of course they all listed things like “my Wii”, “my iPod touch”, and “the car”, but I enjoyed the ones that said “the crockpot for dinner” or “the digital picture frame on our bookshelf”!
The next day, we talk about the four functions of electricity – light, heat, motion, and sound. We then classify the objects on their lists. This year, each student received several post-it notes on which they wrote a few items from their list. They placed them on the board in the correct section based on its function. Some of them were quite difficult to classify, such as a lava lamp – isn’t its main purpose BOTH light and motion?? Tricky…
We then move on to learn what exactly electricity is, starting with static. The kids enjoyed several static-related experiments and eventually came to the conclusion that like charges repel and opposite charges attract – it’s always so exciting when they discover this!!
We move on to talk about lightning and Ben Franklin’s famous experiment. The cool thing we do with this lesson is watch for sparks from a student eating a mint in a dark closet. Have you ever tried it? If you chew a lifesaver peppermint, sometimes you can see sparks! It is really cool.
We then learn about cells and batteries, and why what we refer to as batteries should really be called cells. The students do several experiments for this, including making their own battery out of zinc washers, copper pennies, and salt-water soaked paper towel, and measuring the voltage in different fruits and vegetables using a multimeter.
One of my favorite parts of this unit is the lesson and experiments on circuits. We learn about series and parallel circuits and how they work. We also talk about why certain things are wired the way that they are. For example, Christmas lights – everyone hates to find a string of lights that doesn’t work anymore! Now, most manufacturers of Christmas lights are wiring them in parallel so that if one light burns out, the rest will stay lit – brilliant! My kiddos absolutely LOVED the circuits experiments because I simply gave them a bag of materials to make circuits with (such as batteries and battery holders, light bulbs and light bulb holders, wires, alligator clips, etc.) and let them have at it! They attempted to make both series and parallel circuits, and all of them did a great job! They kept asking if they could “play” longer 🙂
On a side note, I ordered some awesome wires at the beginning of the year – they are magnetic, so the ends attach to the bulb holders magnetically, instead of having to use alligator clips to clip them on! They are so easy to use and made it much less of a struggle for the kids. I wish I remembered where they came from or what they are called!
So that is what we have done so far this month. I am looking forward to getting into magnetism next! The students’ project for the month is to complete a science experiment relating to electricity to present to the class. They will be presenting next week, so hopefully the class will get to see some pretty cool experiments from each student.
Do you teach electricity? What is your favorite part of the topic? I am looking for field trip ideas – any suggestions?!