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Spark your students’ interest in electricity. Taking Charge is designed to help teachers bring the intimidating subject of electricity to students in the middle grades. These teacher-tested, hands-on activities use readily available materials and make students’ first exposure to electricity a fun one. Students explore static electricity in the first module before seeing that static electricity can move as current electricity, which is investigated in the second module. The unique historical approach of the first module shows students how we developed our modern ideas of electricity by introducing them to the ideas of Ben Franklin and other early explorers of electricity.
Module 1 – Static Electricity
Tree Sap—How Attractive!
Introduces students to the early investigations of electricity and focuses on discovering how certain objects display electrical attraction.
So Where’s the Attraction? What’s Static about Static Electricity?
Challenges students to discover what is “static” about static electricity.
Electricity—Can It Be Repulsive?
This unit explores the concept of electrostatic repulsion.
Two Kinds of Electricity or One? Doctor Dufay’s Answer!
Challenges students to reproduce the observations of early investigators of electricity who tried to figure out if there was one or more kinds of electricity.
Two Kinds of Electricity or One? Ben Franklin’s Answer!
Challenges students to recreate some of Ben Franklin’s investigations and see how he developed different ideas about the kinds of electricity.
Ben’s Electrical Sign Language (+ and -)
Introduces students to Ben Franklin’s nomenclature and how it is used to describe the phenomenon of static electricity.
Seesaws and the Modern View of Static Electricity
Introduces students to the modern view of static electricity.
Who Was Right, Dufay or Franklin?
This activity illustrates that Dufay and Franklin both contributed ideas to the modern view of static electricity.
Conducting a Charge: The Pie Pan Zapper
Challenges students to store a charge on an insulated conductor and then conduct that charge to another object.
Back to the Beginning: Why are Uncharged Objects Attracted to Charged Objects?
Challenges students to use their current knowledge of static electricity to answer a question posed in Activity 1.
Zap, Cling, Sift, and Stick—Static Electricity in Our Lives
Introduces students to static electricity as a part of our everyday lives.
Module 2 – Current Electricity
Lighting a Bulb With One Battery and One Wire
Introduces students to current electricity by having them find four ways of lighting a bulb using only one battery and one wire.
Predictions, Two-Wire Lighting, and Holding It All Together
Challenges students to predict which wire and bulb arrangements will light and to add a second wire so the bulb will light without having to touch the battery.
Just Passing Through: Conductors and Nonconductors
Challenges students to construct a device that tests whether a material can conduct electrical charges or not.
Light Bulb Anatomy, Circuits, and Switches
Students describe pathways of conductors and then it develops the concept of open and closed electrical circuits.
Series Circuits and Resistance: All for One and One for All
Students add one more bulb to the circuit, introducing the idea of series circuits that helps develop the concept of electrical resistance.
Parallel Circuits: Sometimes Short and Always Independent
Challenges students to extend their understanding of open and closed circuits to build a parallel circuit, and then introduces short circuits.
The Power Structure and Cell Anatomy
Applies the series arrangement to batteries for students to discover that voltages can be added within a circuit. Students also examine the structure of a simple cell or battery.
Rolling Tennis Balls and Electrical Current
Introduces the concept of electrical current using rolling tennis balls to represent bundles of charges (coulombs) traveling through wire.
Volts: The “Kick” in the Current
Explores the relationship between voltage and current.
Socking in Resistance and Summarizing Wtih Ohm's Law
Using the tennis ball model and a sock, students learn about the influence of electrical resistance on current. The relationships between current, voltage, and resistance (now familiar to students) are summarized in Ohm’s Law.
What’s a Watt?
Building on their understanding of voltage and current, students use the tennis ball model to understand the concept of a watt and then learn how power companies calculate electric bills.
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