Week Twenty-Four: It’s Electric!


October 13, 2015 by libraryheather

Program Title:
It’s Electric!

Target Age Range: Grades 4-6

Program Length: 60 minutes

Brief Description:
Explore electricity and learn about circuits with four fun, hands-on stations.

20 lemons

6 galvanized zinc nails

6 copper pennies OR pieces of copper wire

8 jumper wires with crocodile clips

1 knife

Paper plates

Paper towels

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)

1-2 4-AA battery holders (depending on the number of participants you anticipate)

4-8 AA batteries

10mm Diffused Lens LEDs (we would purchasing recommend at least 3-4 per child)

1 LEGO WeDo Construction Set

1 LEGO WeDo Software v1.2 and Activity Pack

1 laptop

1 set of Snap Circuits Jr.

Cost: $$$ 0-150+ (If a Lego WeDo needs to be purchased, the cost of the program reached upwards of $150.)

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 at that station.

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

-Try doing the lemon battery experiment at home first so you can learn how it works and what to troubleshoot.

-Set up 4 separate stations: Lemon Batteries, Squishy Circuits, LEGO WeDo, and Snap Circuits Jr.

-Set up the laptop and make sure that the LEGO WeDo software works.

Program Outline:
1. Settling in, welcome, introductions, explain how circuits work, divide participants into 4 groups: 10 minutes

2. Rotate groups through the tables every ~12 minutes until program ends: 50 minutes

Handouts: None

Special Instructions and Procedures:
We found it helpful to create 4 separate stations for this program, where small groups of participants rotated through approximately every 15 minutes.

We had three staff members for this program: 1 overseeing the lemon battery station, 1 overseeing the Squishy Circuits station, and 1 floating back and forth between the LEGO WeDo and the Snap Circuits Jr. stations (both of which are more self-explanatory).

Those overseeing the lemon battery and squishy circuits stations explained the procedures for making the LEDs light up. Those details can be found in the links to squishy circuits and lemon batteries below. It is worth letting them play with the design of squishy circuits, though–they come up with stuff like the electric flower in the photo above!

For the LEGO WeDo station, it’s advisable to have the kids work together to build 1 project, since their time is very limited.

Resources Used:
St. Thomas: Squishy Circuits

St. Thomas: Squishy Circuits Classroom Guide

Tech Age Kids: Making a Lemon Battery

Quantum Balancing: Make Your Own Lemon Battery

Discovery Kids: How Do Electric Circuits Work?

Explain That Stuff: Electricity

Additional Resources:
Physics Van: Why Won’t My Lemon Battery Work?

What we would do differently:
Nothing–this worked well as-is.

Adaptation 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 something similar to this program could be done for 1st-3rd graders. We would likely simply swap out the Lemon Battery project in favor of the MaKey MaKey Banana Piano with a 1st-3rd grade group, but keep in the Snap Circuits Jr and the LEGO WeDo.

One thought on “Week Twenty-Four: It’s Electric!

  1. […] 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 […]

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