We enjoy playing around with toy electric circuits, but there is something particularly engaging about working with "real" things that have purposes in everyday life. My husband recently organized a STEM field day through his company for an elementary school nearby. He figured out how to make a few fantastic hands on demonstrations, including this hands on electric circuit for testing electric conductivity of common household items. All the materials came from Lowes.
For this activity, the students were encouraged to guess whether each object would or would not make the light glow. Then, they were allowed to physically place the objects between the coils to see whether their guess was correct.
Our own children have enjoyed taking advantage of this equipment at home, and eagerly think up new materials that we should test.
Ideally, preschoolers and young elementary students should have access to this type of equipment. The voltage here is low enough that they can safely handle the materials. Warning: Higher voltages could result in fires or electrocution. Use discretion when working with electricity. You could introduce a writing component by asking students to write down their predictions and discoveries.
My experience has been that even many high school students have not been introduced to the basic concepts of completing the circuit and conductivity. If your students have not had a good grounding (haha!) in hands on play with electric circuits, you will probably find that teenagers benefit from this activity as well. Teenagers are always wondering, "When will we ever use this?" The fact that these items came from the hardware store where local contractors get their supplies should catch their attention. Once students have a better understanding of the basics of electric circuits and conductivity, they will be better prepared to work with more advanced chemistry and physics topics.
You can get a copy of the printable shopping list and step-by-step directions for making this circuit by clicking over to my TPT store. There will be a coupon for this activity in the next edition of the Thriving STEM newsletter, so make sure that you are signed up!
We hope you enjoy!
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