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Lesson Plan



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Teacher Investigations

Teachers will learn why some materials conduct electricity while others do not. They will learn how to identify conductors and insulators. They will learn the atomic basis of simple electrical current flow. Electrical circuits will be constructed including open, closed, parallel, and series circuits. The basis of household electrical wiring will be discussed. Static electricity will also be investigated. Many teacher activities will be performed including bending a stream of water, making electricity with vegetables, and building a burglar alarm. Many lecture demonstrations will be presented to introduce the concepts of electricity including potential and electric field.



Each student will be expected to purchase a reading booklet at the time of registration or at the first class. This booklet will contain material that should be read before the beginning of the second class. For our typical course, there are two full eight hour days of classes, although other schedules are possible. There must be several days between the two full day classes to allow a project to be completed.

Between the two classes, each student is required to research and build a project having to do with electricity. The primary consideration is your understanding of the project, your ingenuity in producing it, and your description of how other teachers could also use it. A short typed description (perhaps only 2-3 pages) must be handed in giving resource material, instructions for building and using the item. A short discussion of how this project might be useful in the classroom would be appropriate. Do not put this report in a folder; simply add a cover sheet in front and staple in the upper, left corner. Also during the second class you will give a short (5-8 minutes) presentation to the class. A list of possible projects is given in this booklet, but each student is expected to do further research to improve on the ideas presented here. Do not just copy what is given here. Try to improve it.


Because this is a graduate level class, only passing grades of A and B (with + and - possible) are given. A C grade is failing. It is also possible to audit the class, but ALL the work must be completed, including the project. Grades will be primarily assigned by the local adjunct professor and will depend on class attendance and participation as well as the presentation of the homework project. This presentation includes the oral one before the class as well as the document handed in describing the project. See the discussion above in Assignments.

Reading booklet:

A reading booklet will be prepared for class members that includes useful information on electricity as well as possible homework projects and teacher applications. This booklet will be available at the first class.

Instructor Contact:

Contact the local adjunct professor during the first class for her/his address and office hours. Professor Thornton may be contacted as described on the previous page. He will try to respond and will inform the adjunct professors of any decisions concerning the class. Thornton's address: Stephen T. Thornton, Department of Physics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Email:



Lesson Plan

1st Class Day (full eight hour class)

8:30 - 9:15 a.m.

Videotape of philosophy of course, research in science education, outline of course, and introduction into electricity.

9:15 - 11:00 a.m.

Investigation E1:Batteries and Bulbs, Show video demo on wire stripping and equipment.

11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

Investigation E2 "Obstacleness and Oomph"

12:15 - 12:45 p.m.


12:45 - 1:00 p.m.

Show videotape on emf, electrolysis, and electroplating.

1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Do Teacher Activities.

2:30 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.

Investigation E3: Capacitors and their Effect on Electricity

3:45 - 4:15 p.m.

Show demo videotape on capacitors, electrostatics. Show videotape on closure and homework projects

4:15 - 4:30 p.m.

Do evaluations. Sign up for homework projects.


2nd Class Day (full eight hour class)

8:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Go over homework projects. Do teacher activities.

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Investigation E4 Electric Charge

12:30 - 1:00 p.m.


1:00 - 2:20 p.m.

Investigation E5: Batteries, Bulbs, and Capacitors

2:20 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Show demo videotape on simple circuits and using multimeters for measuring resistance, voltage, and current.

2:30 - 3:30 p.m.

Investigation E6: Circuits with Multiple Paths

3:30 - 3:45 p.m.

Show demo videotape on RC.

3:45 - 4:30 p.m.

Do teacher activities and fill out evaluations.



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Homework Assignment:

1) Each teacher should make their homework project, write up a 2-3 page description, and be prepared to show it to their local class at the next class.

2) Each teacher should attempt Investigation E4. Everyone should do E4.1 and E4.2. Try E4.3, E4.4, E4.5, E4.6 if time permits. We will not do the group discussion. We will do E4.7 during the next class.


Teacher Activities

The following is a list of Teacher Activities that are available in the course. We have attached several of the activities. Click here to see some TEACHER ACTIVITIES.








Testing for conductors and insulators


Heating by Electricity, Methods 1, 2, and 3.


Heating by Electricity, Methods 1, 2, and 3.


Charging by Friction




Soda Can Electroscope




Glowing Fluorescent Bulb


Penny and Dimes Battery


Green Potato


Bring in for class: Potatoes, soda cans


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Teacher Projects

These are possible homework projects. Check with the local professor if you have ideas for any other projects. Your on-site professor must approve your project. A list of references used follows this list of Teacher Projects. 




Glass Jar Electroscope


Leyden Jar


Lemon Battery


Potato Battery


Hand Battery






Making an Incandescent Bulb




Steady Hand Game, Many Variations of This


Circuit Challenge/Quiz Game, Many Variations of This


Inference Board


Burglar Alarm


Frictional Electrostatic Generator (Challenging)


Frictional Electrostatic Generator (Challenging)


Build a Radio

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Ardley, Neil, Discovering Electricity, New York, Franklin Watts, 1984.

Barr, George, Science Projects for Young People, Mineola, NY, Dover, 1986.

Eds. Paul Doherty and Don Rathjen, Exploratorium Science Snackbook, San Francisco, The Exploratorium, 1991.

Farandon, John; How the Earth Works, London, Dorling Kindersley, 1992.

Friedl, Alfred A., Teaching Science to Children, New York, McGraw Hill, 1991.

Hamm, Judith; How Science Works, London, Dorling Kindersley, 1991.

Kardos, Thomas, Physical Science Labs Kit, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1991.

Kenda, Margaret and Willams, Phyllis; Science Wizardry for Kids, 1992.

Mandell, Muriel; Physics Experiments for Children, Dover, New York, 1959.

Morse, Robert A., Teaching About Electrostatics, American Association of Physics Teachers, College Park, MD, 1992.

Prochnow, David and Kathy; How? more experiments for the young scientist, McGraw Hill, 1993.

Prochnow, David and Kathy; Why? experiments for the young scientist, McGraw Hill, 1993.

Provenso and Provenso, 47 Easy-to-do Classic Science Experiments, Dover, 1989.

Reuben, Gabriel, Electricity Experiments for Children, New York, Dover, 1986.

Scienceworks, Ontario Science Centre, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1984.

Siddons, Colin, Fun with Electricity, London, Kaye and Ward, 1976.

VanCleave, Janice; Physics for Every Kid, John Wiley, New York, 1991.

VanCleave, Janice; Electricity, John Wiley, New York, 1994.

Wilkes, Angela; My First Science Book, London, Dorling Kindersley, 1990.


Teacher Investigations:

The following is a list of Teacher Investigations that are available in the course. We have attached a few of the investigations to illustrate the format of the investigations and the course. Click here to see some TEACHER INVESTIGATIONS.

Investigation E1:Batteries and Bulbs


Activity E1.1

What conditions do you think enable the bulb to light?

Homework E1.2

Where is the circuit in a flashlight?

Activity E1.3

Which way do you think electricity goes?

Activity E1.4

Adding another bulb

Activity E1.5

Comparing bulb brightness

Activity E1.6

Does electricity in wires have any effects on a compass?

Activity E1.7

Which runs batteries down quicker, circuits with more bulbs or circuits with fewer?

Investigation E2:"Obstacleness and Oomph"

Activity E2.1

Lengths of wires and how they affect bulbs or compasses

Activity E2.2

Wires of different materials and how they affect bulb brightness

Activity E2.3

Adding more "Oomph" to a circuit by adding more batteries

Investigation E3:Capacitors and their Effect on Electricity

Activity E3.1

A capacitor and how it affects a circuit

Activity E3.2

Closing the switch and compass deflections

Activity E3.3

The flow of electricity in a circuit with a capacitor and a battery

Investigation E4:Electric Charge

Activity E4.1

Generating Charged tape

Activity E4.2

How do you think that two pieces of tape charged in the same fashion will interact?

Activity E4.3

The interaction of differently charged tapes

Activity E4.4

Another variation of charged tapes

Activity E4.5

How uncharged tapes affect charged tapes

Activity E4.6

Determining the charge of an unknown tape

Activity E4.7

Influencing the charge to move within a wire

Investigation E5:Batteries, Bulbs and Capacitors

Skip Activities E5.1 and E5.2

Activity E5.3

Increasing the barriers to see if it affects the bulb brightness and compass response

Activity E5.4

Increasing the resistance quantity to see if it affects bulb brightness, compass response, and time

Activity E5.5

Recasting the general rules in new terms

Investigation E6:Circuits with multiple paths

Activity E6.1

Comparing bulb brightness when adding a new bulb

Activity E6.2

How adding more bulbs affects bulb brightness and compass behavior

Activity E6.3

Comparing two-bulb and three-bulb circuits

Activity E6.4

What runs batteries down quicker, circuits with more bulbs or circuits with fewer?

Activity E6.5

Is the current through the batteries always the same from circuit to circuit?

Lesson Plan



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SOLs Covered:



Grade 1


Grade 2


Grade 3


Grade 4

4.1, 4.3

Grade 5


Grade 6

6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4

Physical Science

PS.1, PS.11

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