Introduction: The first electrostatic lab/activity uses common household materials to demonstrate basic concepts of static electricity.

Timing: This lab/activity should take about one hour to complete.

Acknowledgments: This lab is built loosely around the Exploratorium’s Science Snack – Static Roller

Group Size: Small groups


Learning Objectives: The objective of this first electrostatic lab is to introduce the following key concepts:
-Attraction of unlike charges
-Repulsion of like charges
-Charging by friction
-Polarization of charge
-Charging by induction (barely)

Guiding Question: What is static electricity and how do charged objects behave around each other?

Materials: Each student should have: an empty soda-can, an inflated balloon, Styrofoam packing peanuts, a permanent marker, tape, string, student hair, and wool (for students who don't want to mess up there hair or have a lack of it). For large classes (over 25) enough materials for students pairing up may be better logistically.

Procedures: Have students collect the materials and follow the stated procedure on the lab worksheet. Lab teams should work at the same pace, moving from part 1 through 4 at the same time. The group should read through the discussion section together and discuss/highlight the more important topics. This could also be done as a class if time is an issue. The closure/assessment is meant to be completed individually and should give some type of gauge the learning objectives.

Assessment: Throughout the first 4 sections of the lab there are questions the will partly assess their new found understanding of the material. These should be graded for completion. The last section is a 10 question assessment of the lab experiences and the electrostatic theory found in the discussion section. These should be graded for correctness.

Answer Key or Rubric:
PART 1: Static Roller
Hold the balloon about an inch in front of the can. What happens?
The can is attracted to the balloon and moves to the can.

Move the balloon SLOWLY away from the can. What happens?
The can is attracted to the balloon and follows the can.

Move the balloon to the other side of the can. What happens?
The can is attracted to the balloon and slows down and may turn around.

Whose hair at the table can get the soda can rolling the fastest? Why does their hair work better?

PART 2: Your New Best Friend

Stare into the eyes of your new best friend. Try moving to the left and then to the right. What happens?
Balloon should follow the student.

Your new best friend seems to be attracted to you... it will now face you and move toward you whenever way you go. Is there a limit to this attraction? Roughly, at what distance does your new best friend stop paying attention to you?
Depends on the students' hair and the humidity.

Does your new best friend pay attention to other members of your team if they are near?

How does you new best friend react to at teammate’s best friend? Move a teammate’s balloon near close to yours and rub both of their faces with your hair. Describe the way they interact with each other.
The faces on the balloon should repel each other and they will turn away from each other.

PART 3: Magic Peanuts
Rub the balloon with your hair and bring the balloon near the Styrofoam packing peanuts. What happens (give it a few minutes before recording your results)?
They should fly up and stick to the balloon, but will eventually gain the same charge and be repelled off.

Individual Assessment Answer Key

  1. Like charges attract. False
  2. c. conductors.
  3. b. electrons.
  4. d. Answers (b) and (c)
  5. b. electrons.
  6. b. friction.
  7. c. neutral.
  8. Charging by induction is really not charging at all. True
  9. The left side of the can is negative and the right side should be positive and if you really want to be picky, you can make sure the number of positives equals the number of negative.
  10. Each piece of hair is positive and they are attracted to the balloon (negative), while also repelling all the other positive pieces of hair.

Balloon Charges Lesson Plan

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