Name of Activity Super Sparker Static Electricity
Author Andrea Dwyer
Keywords household materials, lightning, static electricity, electrons, protons, thunder
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students use household materials to create an electric current similar to lightning.

This is a static electricity activity based two versions I found online: one was
an entry by Ramona Gravesande that was previously in the activities database
and the other the website
I combined the instructions in those two activities to create an activity that works more effectively.For older students, you may want to combine this activity with another electricity activity, such as creating electromagnets.

Lesson Objectives: To teach students how lightning forms and why it strikes.
Materials Needed: – Styrofoam plates.
– Tape.
– Aluminum pie pans.
– A pencil with eraser.
– Pieces of wool fabric.
Preparation and Set Up: – Gather necessary materials.
– Arrange students into groups of 2-4.
– Distribute necessary materials.
Necessary Background Lightening occurs when a connection is made from electrons in the bottom
of a cloud to protons in the ground. Electrons in the bottom of the cloud are
attracted to the protons in the ground. When the connection is made the protons
rush to meet the electron and that is when you see lightening. A bolt of lightning
heats the air along its path casing it to expand rapidly. Thunder is the sound
caused by this rapid expanding air.


Procedure 1.    Tape the pencil onto the center of the pie plate with the eraser touching the pie plate so that the pencil becomes a handle.                              

2.    Rub the underside of the Styrofoam plate on your hair or the wool for one minute. Rub fast.

3.  Use the handle to pick up the pie tin. Hold it   about a foot over the Styrofoam plate and drop it.                      

4.    Now–very slowly–touch the tip of your finger to the pie tin. Wow! What a spark! (Be careful. DON’T touch the Styrofoam plate. If you do, you won’t get a spark.)

5.    Use the handle to pick up the pie tin again. When the tin is in the air, touch the tin with the tip of your finger. Wow! You get another great spark.

6.    Drop the pie tin onto the Styrofoam tray again. Touch the pie tin. Another spark! Use the handle to pick up the pie tin. More sparks!

7.    You can do this over and over for a long time. If the pie tin stops giving you a spark, just rub the Styrofoam tray on your head again, and start over.

8.    Try using your Super Sparker in the dark. Can you see the tiny lightning bolts you make? What color are they?

Reference 1
Reference 2
Reference 3
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One Response to Super Sparker Static Electricity

  1. We thought this would be a good activity to introduce electricity to our 5th graders. The goal for the lesson was to illustrate that static electricity and electricity that powers things are the same. Initially, we had some trouble getting the sparks to happen because, according to the kids, it only worked on certain people’s hair, but then we had them rub the Styrofoam plate on the classroom carpet. That worked really well, and the kids felt the spark. As an aside, we asked the kids how lightning works, since the concepts are pretty related, and they got that pretty well. They didn’t understand atoms very well, although they did seem to get that electrons are responsible for electricity.

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