Week Nine: STEAM Storytime: Electricity & Magnetism!


September 15, 2015 by libraryheather

Program Title: STEAM Storytime: Electricity & Magnetism

Target Age Range: Ages 3-6

Program Length: 60 minutes

Brief Description:
Half-storytime, half-lab in which we explore the principles of electricity and magnetism.

Conductive dough (1 cup water, 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 cup salt, 3 tablespoons cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 bottle of food coloring)

Insulating dough (1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1/2 cup deionized or distilled water, 1 different color of food coloring)

2-4 4-AA battery holders (depending on the number of participants you anticipate)

8-16 AA batteries

10mm Diffused Lens LEDs (we would purchasing recommend at least 2-3 per child)

Magnetism flannels (see Program Outline below for a photo)

1 box paperclips

Straight-sided clear glass (Preferably tall)


Paper towels or dish towels for wiping up splashed water

4 magnet wands (or other easy-to-hold magnets)


Mega Magnets Construction Set

Magnet Discovery Board (you could easily make something similar to this for less money)

Magnet Discovery Centers

2 MakeyMakeys

3 laptops with internet access (1 connected to a projector with sound)

14 small bananas

2 limes

1-3 cardboard boxes with bottoms at least big enough to fit 8.5 x 11″ sheet of paper, large rectangular hole cut in one side

Washable paint (at least 2 colors)

White printer paper or similar (at least 1 piece per child)

1-3 Easy-Grip Safety Tweezers (1 per box-station)

3-9 washable or disposable bowls (3 per box-station)

Washable or disposable cups (1 per box-station)

Assortment of nails, screws, springs, bolts, etc.

Plastic drop cloth, a tarp, or other wipe-able surface on which to put wet paintings

1 Energy Stick

“That Magnetic Dog” – Bruce Whatley

“Mickey’s Magnet” – Franklyn Mansfield Branley (if you cannot get a hold of this great old book, we suggest “Push and Pull! Learn About Magnets” – Julia Vogel)

“Plug It In! Learn About Electricity”- Julia Vogel, Jane Yamada

Optional: Safety glasses for the Squishy Circuits station

Cost: $$-$$$ 50-150+ (depending on what you already own, or what you could substitute)

Advanced Preparation:
-Make Squishy Circuit dough (both conductive and non-conductive).

-Read up on how Squishy Circuits work, so that you can adequately give verbal instructions to children and their parents at that station.

-Test battery holders and LEDs with the squishy circuit dough a couple days before the program to ensure that everything works.

-Make magnetism flannels (see Special Instructions and Procedures below for details).

-Cut a large rectangular hole in one side of each cardboard box that you will use for magnetic painting.

-We recommend creating a powerpoint presentation that has all the song lyrics on it. If you don’t do this, we would recommend creating a handout for the parents to follow along with and take home.

Program Outline:
1. Welcome and introductions.

2. Song: The More That We Learn Science

The more that we learn science,
Learn science, learn science,
The more that we learn science,
The happier we’ll be.
We’ll know things, and do things,
And explore many new things,
The more that we learn science,
The happier we’ll be.

3. Brainstorm: What is electricity? What kinds of things use electricity? What happens if the electricity goes out in your house? Where does electricity come from? Have you ever used a magnet? Where? What do magnets do? What kinds of things stick to magnets?

4. Book: “Mickey’s Magnet” – Franklyn Mansfield Branley  (or “Push and Pull! Learn About Magnets” – Julia Vogel)

5. Song and Dance: Magnets – John Riggio

6. Flannel: I Am a Mighty Magnet Flannel (first part of the verse was found on Tooter 4 Kids, but the author is listed as unknown–we added onto the end and incorporated it into a flannel)

I am a mighty magnet,
I can be very strong.
But if you use me exactly right
Nothing can go wrong.

I can pick up many objects
But not everything you see,
I only pick up objects
That are attracted to me.

So take me now and try me out
And you will quickly see,
What different kinds of things

Are pushed and pulled by me.

Magnet, magnet,
What do you say?eandmstorytime 12
What kinds of things
Will you stick to today?

Will you stick to a cat?

Repeat the verse above, but end with the following flannel objects:
…a refrigerator?
…a gold ring?
…a car?
…a teddy bear?
…a glass of milk?
…these nails?

7. Book: “That Magnetic Dog” – Bruce Whatley

8. Book: “Plug It In! Learn About Electricity” – Julia Vogel, Jane Yamada

9. Song: The Electricity Song (lyrics strongly inspired by Julia Vogel & Jane Yamada’s book! To the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus”)

Atoms make up everything on the earth,
on the earth, on the earth,
Atoms make up everything on the earth,
including you and me.

Electrons on the atom go round and round
round and round,
round and round,
Electrons on the atom go round and round,
every single day.

Electrons like to move off of stuff,
off of stuff,
off of stuff,
Electrons like to move off of stuff,
and on to you and me.

Extra electrons go zap zap zap,
zap zap zap,
zap zap zap,
Extra electrons go zap zap zap,
when we touch something.

Electrical currents power our things,
power our things,
power our things,
Electrical currents power our things,
every single day.

The switch on the wall goes flip, flip, flip,
Flip, flip, flip
Flip, flip, flip
The switch on the wall goes flip, flip, flip,
And turns the power on.

Electrical circuits go round and round,
round and round,
round and round,
Electrical circuits go round and round,
until we turn them off!

10. Demo: Make a Human Circuit (see Special Instructions and Procedures below)

**Note: After the human circuit demo, but BEFORE you release them to lab time, make sure they understand that electricity is usually very dangerous and is not to be played with at home or anywhere else. We told them that everything we were doing with electricity that day was safe, because we are grown ups who tried it beforehand and know it’s safe. Therefore, they are NEVER to touch anything with electricity without first asking their mom or dad or another responsible adult.**

11. Lab Time (approximately 30 minutes to explore four lab stations, see Special Instructions and Procedures below for details)
MakeyMakey Banana Piano

Squishy Circuits

Magnet Painting

Magnet Exploration

Handouts: None

Lab Time Instructional Signs:
MakeyMakey Sign

Special Instructions and Procedures:
MaKeyMaKey Banana Piano:
We used two laptops and two MaKeyMaKey sets for this station, so there wasn’t a long line of kids (and because we have two MaKeyMaKeys). We used this MaKeyMaKey Piano on the Scratch website, and simply hooked up the alligator clips to the corresponding arrows, space key, and click button on the MaKeyMakey board and then connected them to the bananas. Then, we hooked up the alligator clip to the Earth part of the MaKeyMakey board and connected the other end to a lime. Make sure you turn the sound way up on the laptops! It will also help if the kids use more than one finger to touch the banana (2-3 fingers or the whole hand works best).

eandmstorytime 1

Squishy Circuits:
We made our conductive dough green for “go,” and the insulating dough red for “stop.” A nifty mnemonic device, indeed. In lieu of an instructional sheet, it is extremely helpful to have someone man this station to ensure that everything runs smoothly and safely. Have the children put on safety glasses if you have them–just in case. Verbally take them through the basic instructions (which you can learn from the Squishy Circuits website or their classroom guide). Be sure to tell them to only hold the covered parts of the red and black wires, and to NEVER touch the metal ends.

Magnet Painting:eandmstorytime 4
The idea here is to place a piece of regular printer paper on top of a box or plastic drawer. The child uses safety tweezers to extract nails, springs, screeandmstorytime 6ws, etc from a cup and dip them into bowls of washable paint. They place the paint-dipped metal pieces onto the paper. Then, they use magnetic wands underneath the box or drawer to move the metal pieces around the paper. Voila! A painting done with magnets!

Cleanup involves using the safety tweezers to pick up the metal pieces and drop them into a bowl of water, then swishing them around in the water. Pull out the pieces, pat them dry with a paper towel or dish rag, and put them back into the cup. It’s helpful to have someone monitoring this station to instruct people in what to do, refresh the bowls of water, and assist in the cleanup process.eandmstorytime 7

We use this station in our “Hands-On Science Museum.” Because of this, we only had one plastic storage drawer with the drawer removed, as well as a custom-built magnet wand (wooden with two large bar magnets in it). To minimize waiting during our Lab Time, we set two cardboard boxes upside down and cut a large rectangle into the side of each. We then used magnet wands to move the metal pieces. We found that it was helpful to stack two magnet wands together to more easily move the pieces on top of the cardboard.

Magnet Exploration:
Most of this station consisted of magnetic toys that we use as part of our Hands-Oeandmstorytime 8n Science Museum. This includes Magna-Tiles and a Mega Magnets Construction Set put together on one table, and a Magnet Discovery Board and these three Magnet Discovery Centers on a longer table. We also included a glass of water with a handful of paperclips in it alongside a magnet wand, which kids could use to see if magnets can pull metal through water. It is mesmerizing (albeit a little messy)! The inspiration for this project came from Tinkerlab.

Really, any combination of magnet exploration activities you can find would work here–there is no need to buy the expensive magnet gadgets if you don’t have another need for them. Just putting out a variety of magnets and metallic/non-metallic objects would suffice.

eandmstorytime 9
Resources Used:
St. Thomas: Squishy Circuits

St. Thomas: Squishy Circuits Classroom Guide

Music K-8: Magnets by John Riggio

Explain That Stuff: Electricity

How Stuff Works: How Electricity Works

SparkFun: What is Electricity?

Dummies.com: Electronics Basics

Ducksters: Electricity for Kids

Explain That Stuff: Magnetism

Global Post: How to Teach a Toddler About Static Electricity

Indianapolis Public Library Kids’ Blog: Static Electricity

Pragmatic Mom: Physics of Circuits and Electricity for Kids

Ducksters: Electricity for Kids, Static Electricity

Steve Spangler Science: Human Circuit

Alliant Energy Kids: How Electricity is Made9

Diary of a Preschool Teacher: It’s Electric!

MaKeyMaKey Piano

Tinkerlab: Traveling Magnets

Tooter 4 Kids: Magnet Poems

Additional Resources:
Music K-8: Static Electricity Song

Science Sparks: Jumping Frogs

Science Sparks: Mini Magnet Maze

Brainpop Educators: Magnet Activities for Kids

Preschool Express: Magnet Magic

Schoolhouse Rock: Electricity, Electricity

Teach Preschool Science: Learn About Static Electricity

What we would do differently:
This went better than expected. Magnets are easily understood by this age group, but explaining electricity is a different kind of beast. Though hesitant about presenting this complex subject with 3-6 year olds, the combination of reading and talking through “Plug It In! Learn About Electricity,” and reiterating the concepts through our electricity song seemed to work well–at least for the older kids in the group.

Despite the fact that this was our second time doing Squishy Circuits in a program, and despite the fact that we tested the dough before the program and tested the newly purchased battery holders just before the program, Squishy Circuits 100% absolutely would not work during this program. We believe something happened to the ends of the wires, but it was nothing that could’ve been fixed right then and there. The moral of this story is to not only test everything several times, but to have multiple battery holders on retainer if you want to do this activity. The kids still liked playing with the dough (who doesn’t?), but it was disappointing to us.

Adaptation for older/younger audience:
We would definitely not recommend this program for a younger audience, since there are significant choking hazards involved. We have done electricity and magnetism programs with older audiences, which are good options concerning these topics for older audiences.

One thought on “Week Nine: STEAM Storytime: Electricity & Magnetism!

  1. […] for older/younger audience: For a much younger audience, please see our STEAM Storytime: Electricity & Magnetism post. Between the stations presented here and the ones presented in the STEAM Storytime post, we believe […]

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