Electricity And Circuit Unit, Megan Manasco

Electricity and Circuit Unit
By Megan Manasco
Introduce the topic or theme:
• This unit focuses on helping students explore and understand the workings of electrical currents by creating electrical circuits and then using them to power a class made city.
Rational for the unit:
• Electricity has been used as an important energy source for over 100 years yet many people still do not understand its basic principles. This unit is designed to allow students the opportunity to discover many things about electricity and its basic principles through hands on activities that utilize trial and error and deductive reasoning skills.
Goals for students:
• Through this unit students will gain an understanding of electrical currents, their components, and their functions as well as principles of conductivity of various materials.
Conceptual explanations:
• What is electricity?
o Electricity is a type of energy that can builds up in one place or flow to another.
o Electricity is created when electrons the charged particles of an atom move through different substances called conductors. This movement causes an electrical current that provides energy. It is used to power all sorts of things, from light bulbs, to computers and video games, even cars!
• What is the difference between static electricity and current electricity?
o Static electricity is electricity happens when you rub tow things together causing an electric charge. This charge doesn’t move anywhere and is thus called static or non moving electricity. An electric shock is an example of this.
o Current electricity is formed when charged particles move from one place to another.
• How do batteries make electricity?
o Electrical batteries are composed of electrical cells that convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy. Each battery cell has three main parts: a positive electrode or terminal, a negative electrode, and an area of liquid or solid separating them called the electrolyte. Batteries create electricity when they are hooked up to an electrical circuit and a chemical reaction takes place causing the positively charged atoms to flow through one way, and the negatively charged electrons to flow through the outer circuit. This movement is what makes the electric current flow through the cell allowing it to power things.

• What is an electrical current?
o Current electricity occurs when electrons move and carry electrical energy from one place to another. A good example of this would be a lightning bolt. Electrical currents are also what power differently devices.

• What is an electrical circuit?
o A circuit is what an electrical current needs to travel though to power things. It is a closed path or loop around which electricity flows. They are usually made by linking electrical components together with wire.
o A circuit is composed of a power source such as a battery, a conductor for the electricity to flow through (usually wire), and the device that you want powered for example a light bulb.
• What is a switch?
o A switch or circuit breaker is an area of the circuit that can be open or closed. When a switch is used to create an opening in the circuit the power cannot travel all the way through causing the device to turn off. When the circuit is closed again power can flow through allowing the device to be powered. A good example of this is a light switch, when you turn a light off the switch is causing an opening in the circuit so electricity can no longer flow through to the light. When you turn the light on it closes the opening allowing the power to flow from the source to the light.
Engagement and Inquiry into Electricity and Circuits:
This unit involves having students learn about electricity and its uses through studies and activities that cover battery power, electric currents, and electric circuits.
• Students will first explore electricity by means of discussion, and observational inquiry. They will look at ways electricity is used and learn about how it is formed.
• Students will then put this concept to use by studying battery power and ways that batteries are used to harness electricity and power different devices.
• Once students have an understanding of battery power they will learn about electric currents and the way electricity travels over conductors to power light bulbs.
• When students can see how batteries create electricity and how this electricity travels they will explore the use of switches through experimental inquiry into open and closed circuits.
• All concepts and knowledge of electricity and circuits will be used when students apply their knowledge towards creating their own classroom city powered by the circuits and switches they create.
Help students get interested in this unit by having a group discussion about what students know about electricity. Create a circle map on a large piece of butcher paper that displays all of the different ideas and comments that the students come up with regarding electricity. They may talk about Benjamin Franklin, electric shock, or lightning but make sure to ask questions and encourage any type of ideas the students have about the following:
• What is electricity?
• Where does electricity come from?
• How do we use electricity to make things work?
• Do you know of any different types of electricity?
The circle map that the class creates should be on display in the classroom during the entire unit alongside a blank circle map that will be hung next to it. Students can use the first map as a reference to see if their ideas were correct, or to use to write more questions about electricity. The blank map is a place for students to visit once they have learned new concepts. They will work as a class to fill up the second map with all they have learned. At the end of the unit students can compare and contrast the two maps. This activity will spark theoretical inquiry as students begin to develop their own broad understanding of concepts, and through open ended questions and conversation learn more about electricity.
What is electricity?
• To help students gain an understanding of what electricity is teachers can utilize a variety of pictorials and real life examples of electricity. You can make a running list of things that need electricity to function.
o Then students need to be exposed to the concepts of electrons being negatively charged portions of an atom and the flow of these particles creates electricity.
o Students will then have the opportunity to experiment with different way to make electrons flow. This can be done by presenting a number of different materials to the students so that they can see if they can create static electricity. These materials can include:

• Balloons
• Magnets
• Rubber
• Cotton socks on carpet
• Aluminum cans
• Clothing materials of different types (wool, cotton, polyester)
• Styrofoam
• Pieces of metal
• Plastic
• Small pieces of paper that allow students to see the charge they create through moving charged materials over the paper to see if the paper moves.
• This YouTube video might be helpful in bits and pieces to help students visualize how this will be done. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2monVkCkX4
• Students will be able to see which objects create static electricity and which do not. This will help them throughout the portion of finding good conductors of electricity later in the unit.

How do batteries make electricity?
Due to the fact that the rest of the student’s projects and activities for this unit involves them using batteries as a means of creating circuits it’s important for them to have basic understanding of how batteries turn chemicals into stored electricity by means of energy flow of positively charged ions inside the battery creating negatively charged electrons outside the battery to flow through a current and power different devices. The attached PowerPoint can be shown briefly to students as a means of helping understanding.
Students can first be given a fresh D battery, copper wire and a small light bulb and be asked if they can make the light bulb glow with only these three materials.
• Ask students how they think batteries work to power things.
• What do they think is inside batteries?
• Allow them to research different pictures and information online.
Now students should be given a fresh d battery, a small piece of copper wire, and a small light bulb and be asked to make the light bulb glow again after they have been shown diagrams and pictorials of the process.

What is an electrical current?
Students can gain understanding of electrical currents by acting out the flow of a current as a class. Students can stand in a circle and use a ball going around and around from one person to the next as a visual of how electricity flows through a circuit. Then you can ask students how they might change the circuit to turn the power on and off to see what type of ideas they come up with. This open ended line of questioning should help with the concepts of open and closed circuits later on in the unit.

What is an electrical circuit?
Students will gain an understanding of the notion of electrical circuits as way in which a current can travel. This two part activity will encourage students to use the knowledge of electricity that they have already gained to first attempt making and electrical circuit then discuss reasons why their designs work.
Materials: D batteries, copper wire, and small light bulbs.
Give students these materials and inform them that their task is to make the light bulb glow using only these three things. Remind them about what they concluded from the electrical current activity and what they already know about how batteries contain power. Student will come up will all sorts of questions and ideas about why their ideas will or will not work. After all the students have succeeded in making their lights glow ask questions about the process they used to make them work, and reasons why the method they chose worked.
Next give students these new materials as a means of constructing a circuit with tools that resemble battery powered devises.
Materials: D Batteries, Battery holders with wire clip, Copper wire, Small light bulb, Light bulb holder with wire clips.

Repeat the first circuit activity with the new materials asking the students about way to make two bulbs glow, and ways in which the circuit could be broken.
What is a switch?
Now that students have had the chance to learn about circuits through their creation on them they will have the opportunity to discuss a switches and the way that all circuits need switches in order to turn power sources on and off. Before presenting logistics of the way switches work ask students if they have any ideas about the way power might be turned on and off now that they know about circuits. Write responses down so that you can experiment with the student’s ideas when they begin creating their own open and closed circuits with switches. Now the students should once again be give the materials from the circuit activity with the addition of a switch that they will use trial and error to implement. After their attempts discuss the concepts of open and closed circuits and the way electricity moves through the circuit. Once again allow students ample time to incorporate this structure into their circuits and follow the activity with a discussion forum about what their ideas were that leads them to their final product. Encourage students to play with multiple switches and bulbs.

Final Project:
Now that students have learned a great deal about batteries, circuits, and switches, they will have the opportunity use the knowledge they have acquired to build their own battery circuit powered city. Allow the students as much freedom and creativity as possible to create a city to their own specifications. Do an independent brain storming activity in which the students create a thinking map about what building they would like to construct to add to the city. Students can create any number of establishments based upon their own interests. The city can be futuristic or old fashioned or have elements of both. Once the students have created their thinking maps pull the group together to talk about what the city will look like and how they will accomplish their goals. The only specification for the students to follow is that their establishments must contain two circuits and two switches. Students should bring materials from home to contribute to the city such as shoe boxes, aluminum foils or cereal boxes. Provide some materials for students that do not have the means to bring their own as well. As students begin the construction of the city allow them the freedom of trial and error as well as collaboration (students should have the option of working in pairs if they choose.) Once the construction of the ciy is complete allow other classrooms in the school a chance to come visit the town. The class should create a name for their town and all the components of it. When the other classrooms come in students will be able to vocalize their experience learning about electricity and how they used their knowledge to construct their town.

Sub-Unit Activities:
What is Electricity?
• Have students discuss times when there was no electricity, talking about all of the things that use electricity that people had to do without.
• Give students an extra activity of looking at things in their world that use electricity, have them make two lists one of battery powered items and one of devices that are plugged into the wall.
What is an electrical current?
• To elaborate upon the circle activity, add to students understanding by giving more information about their part in the circuit. You can use yourself as an example of the battery or use information about them as an electron within the circuit.
How do batteries make electricity?
• Students can practice putting batteries into different things focusing on the importance of the positive and negative side of a battery. Have students come up with different combinations and see if batteries work if put in the wrong way, or with one battery facing the wrong way. Students can collect data about the battery life of different objects based upon how they put the batteries into the devices (such as a flash light or battery powered fan) this way they will be able to understand that the positive and negative sides of the battery effect the way electricity is delivered to power things.

What is an electrical circuit?
• Students have already gathered a large amount of knowledge from experimenting with circuits, to expand on this activity student can write journal entries or make diagrams about the different ways to compose a circuit.
• It would be great for students to see how all electronics are filled with different types of circuits. Have old appliances that students can dissect to see the working parts. They can then draw diagrams of the different circuits they see and try to recreate them with their wire circuit kits.

What is a switch?
• The concept that a switch creates and open or closed circuit can be further explored by showing students the ways to draw wire diagrams and what each portion of them represents. By being able to draw and read wire diagrams will help students incorporate switches into their city.

Integrative Opportunities:
Reading: Provide different types of literature on electricity for students to use as a resource within the classroom. Make sure that they books cover a variety of skill levels ranging from beginning to advanced. Students will be able to browse through the books during the entire unit and share any information they find with the class during the beginning of each science discussion.
Social Studies: Provide information about the discovery of electricity and its use throughout the ages. Talk about all of the advancement of electricity and how it has affected history.
Writing: After each activity or discussion students can write a reflection complete with diagrams in their science journals. Students can tell what they learned and what they still have questions about. The information written in the journals can be used as a tool to help students when they are completing their final project look back at the information they have learned.
Art/Performances: Have the class perform skits about Benjamin Franklin’s discovery of electricity, or what might be going on inside a copper wire, or how the electrons come together to light a bulb. Allow completely open ended topics of the students choosing, invite other classrooms and parents in to watch the performances after they display their class made city.

Assessment for this unit will be ongoing and viewed in a variety of different capacities throughout the explorations of concepts.
Before: Before beginning the unit the exercise that has students discuss what they know and want to know about electricity will drive the type of information you provide for students. Make sure you take their interests in to considerations when presenting concepts, place maximum focus on the information students express interest in knowing.
During: Students can perform self assessments of their knowledge during the unit by completing reflections in their science journals. They can see what they have learned as well as reflect on concepts they would like to know more about. Teachers can assess this knowledge by reading journals as well. Teachers should be actively engaged in discussions taking data on what they students grasp and areas that will need more explanation. By observing student projects teachers can gather information about the different thought process that the students are following to reach conclusions.
After: The final city project will be a great way for teachers to observe all of the different concepts students have gathered throughout the unit. Teachers will also gain insight into student knowledge by listening to the explanations students in the class give to parents and other students that view their city. Students will express their knowledge both through the completion of the project as well as through their educational explanations of it. A cumulative reflection piece in their science journals will also be a valuable tool for students and teacher assessment.
Portions of this unit were utilized during the Exploring Your World Day activity at the Northern Arizona College of Education on April 16, 2011. A small center was constructed that featured the PowerPoint on battery power (attached) and the materials used to construct circuits and switches. There was a table with all of the supplies that students were able to approach and explore. The only information students were given as to how to create a circuit was information on the ways batteries convert chemicals into electricity and the fact that will a simple copper wire, D battery, and small light bulb they could harness this power to make the bulb glow. The children that visited the center had a great time with the challenge, each time a child was able to make the bulb glow they were asked about their though process and why they felt their method worked. The children were then given different components to add extra challenges such as moving towards the battery holders and wire clips to make a bulb glow, then asked to make two bulbs glow, then asked to incorporate a switch. With each new element students vocalized their ideas and ways in which they thought they could accomplish the task. Some of the older children would help the younger children get their bulbs to glow. Students responded with comments such as “this is great” and “look Mom, I did it, are you proud?” Overall the feedback was very positive and added a great deal of information on many of the activities provided in this unit.
Bloom, J. W. (2011). The Really Useful Elementary Science Book. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.
Bloom, J. W. (2006). Creating a Classroom Community of Young Scientists: Second Edition. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.

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