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Electricity - test for conductance

Use a circuit with a bulb to test for whether different materials conduct electricity
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Physics: Energy forms, Conservation of Energy (1, 3, 4, 5)
Physics: Electricity, Electromagnetism (7)
Lessons activity is in: 
  • open circuit containing a bulb and battery, as made in light a bulb
  • materials to test: nail, paper, coin, wood, plastic, key, styrofoam, pipe cleaner, electrical wire, pencil
  • worksheet to write down results
  • optional: bowl of water

Students need an open circuit with a battery, bulb and two wire ends covered in blobs of tin foil. Ours was mounted on a cardboard base to make the components easier to manage. (Circuit made in the light a bulb activity).

Use your circuit to test for objects that conduct electricity. If they do they complete the circuit and light the bulb.
Show on the board how to space the foil-covered wire ends on the test materials, to see if the electricity can go through it.

Test materials:
Nail, paper, coin, wood, plastic, key, styrofoam, pipe cleaner, electrical wire, pencil.
Write on a sheet your results.
Summarize together - metals conduct (that is why electrical wires are made of metal).
Plastic and styrofoam are insulators (that is why electrical wires are covered in plastic, and why we used a styrofoam base for our circuit).
Carbon also conducts.

Does water conduct? Try it. No. Why so concerned about electrical appliances in the bath? They are with much higher voltage, and it is only a problem if it goes across your heart.

Grades taught: 
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Teaching site: 
General Gordon Elementary Science Club