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Spark an Interest in Science by Making Your Own...

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Activity Overview

Spark an interest in Science by making your own version of lightning. Lightning is created when tiny positively charged sparks reach up in response to negatively charges in the air or clouds above the ground. This phenomenon is emulated in this experiment.

By rubbing the metal tray on the plastic bag below it creates static electricity. In this case, the metal tray has a negative charge and the metal object has a positive charge. The two opposing charges are attracted to each other and the electricity literally leaps from the tray to the metal object that you are using.

Materials Needed

  • A plastic garbage bag
  • A metal baking tray
  • A metal object such as a fork or a key
  • a clump of clay

How to Do It

  1. Lay plastic garbage bag on the table in front of you.
  2. Place a metal baking tray on top of the plastic wrap.
  3. Press a ball of clay into the center of the baking tray.
  4. Turn the lights off or lower the shades to darken the room.
  5. Move the tray back and forth over the top of the plastic garbage bag vigorously.
  6. Grab the clay and lift the tray while holding only the clay. When you do this, be sure not to touch the tray and to keep the tray at an angle so that one end of the tray is in closer proximity to the plastic on the table than the other.
  7. Bring the fork, key or other metal object close to the higher corner of the tray. A small spark should be created between the metal object and the tray.

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