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Nov 02

November Science Activity To-Go Kit: Static Electricity

Posted on November 2, 2020 at 9:22 AM by Elizabeth Land

Library to offer Activity To-Go kits

Library staff created Library To-Go Kits for those who are missing our library programs. Supplies are limited, though, so if you can't get to the library in time, we have you covered. Today we will share the content in this month's Science Kit. 

November Science Kit: Static Electricity
Check out this list of nonfiction and fiction library books focusing on electricity and lightning! Now it's time for a science experiment! 

Static Electricity can cause your hair to lift off your head.(Click here for printable Instructions)
Have you ever walked across the room to pet your dog, but got a shock instead? Or have you taken your hat off on a dry winter’s day and your hair began to crackle and stick out straight? What is going on here? All physical objects are made up of atoms. Inside an atom are protons, electrons and neutrons. The protons are positively charged, the electrons are negatively charged, and the neutrons are neutral. Most of the time there is an equal number of positive and negative charges everywhere.
Static electricity is formed when something picks up extra electrons or negative charges. When your shoes rub across the carpet or the hat rubs your hair electrons are transferred. Now the object is no longer neutral and strange things can happen. Let’s do a couple experiments and discover more about static electricity!

Gather the following supplies:

  • Scissors
  • Wool sweater
  • Pen
  • 2 Empty soda cans
  • 2 balloons
  • Thin paper
  • Two pieces of string

Instructions for Jump with Electricity experiment:

  1. Draw some small people about 1 inch tall on the included paper and cut them out. 
  2. Blow up a balloon until it is quite big. Hold the balloon 4 inches over your little people. What happens?
  3. Rub the balloon on a wool sweater. If you do not have a wool sweater rub it on your hair or a fuzzy item. The rubbing will transfer electrons from the sweater to the balloon making it negatively charged.
  4. Hold the balloon 4 inches over your little people and watch what happens. 
  5. A step further, try rubbing the balloon on a variety of materials and see which material work the best.
  6. Try other experiments listed in our static electricity handout, including seeing bending water, pushing balloons and racing objects!
What's happening?

Electric charge is carried by tiny particles called protons, which carry a positive charge and electrons, which carry a negative charge. Charges exert forces on each other: charges of the same type push apart objects while opposite charges pull objects together.  When you rub your balloon you transfer electrons giving the balloon an overall negative charge. When the balloon gets close to an item with neutral charge it pushes the electrons in the item away because they are negative just like it and this makes the edge of the item positive. Then the item is attracted to the balloon. Have fun and keep exploring! Get other experiments to try in our static electricity experiments handout.