Monday, January 20, 2014

Science Series: Conductor or Insulator?

It's time for Science!

Last week, I told you that I'd be starting a weekly Science Series on my blog to show you some of the cool stuff we are working on in science.  It would have been great for me to start this at the beginning of Adisson's electricity unit instead of in the middle, but it is what it is.

Adisson's lessons in science are from his Time4Learning units.  Right now, we're working on an electricity unit, which he finds very interesting.  I think it helps because his Dad enjoys talking about electricity and knows a lot about the subject, as well, so it gives them something else to discuss together.  Zander is following along in the experiments and learning what he can through his Science4Us activities.  Those resources are where a majority of our information is going to come from in this series, in addition to activities/worksheets/videos found on the internet.

Last week, we discussed electrical conduction.  To help Zander understand some of what we'd be talking about, we read through the electrical energy module at Science4Us.  He became familiar with the words electrical energy, electricity, convert, power lines, and generate.  Adisson's lesson on Time4Learning included keywords like electricity, insulator, and conductor.  An experiment listed through T4L
was set up to determine which materials would be conductors or insulators.  Fortunately, Adam was able to scrounge up a lot of what we needed and everything else was found around the house.  The following is a list of supplies necessary:

  • D cell battery
  • flashlight bulb
  • two 4-inch pieces of insulated wire with ends stripped to expose wire
  • electrical tape
    These are the test items needed:
    • paper clip
    • string
    • small rock
    • screwdriver
    • cellophane tape
    • glass 
    • metal spoon

Adam soldered the wires to the flashlight bulb to make it easier for us to use in this experiment.
He also threw in the popsicle stick as another test item.  

The first part of the experiment involved taping the wire to the light bulb and to the bottom (negative terminal) of the battery.  Then, laying the battery on the counter.  Instructions were then given to pick up the remaining loose end of the wire by the insulated part and touch the exposed end to the top (positive terminal) of the battery.  Because the circuit is complete, which means the electrons can flow from the battery, through the wire and the light bulb, and back to the battery--the light bulb should light.  This was a test in ensuring your light bulb works and the wires are making contact.

The circuit is closed so the light bulb is lit.
Also, I have no idea why he's so goofy in pictures.

He promised to smile nicely. 

The second part of the experiments was to test which items we had to see which were conductors or insulators.  We needed to place one time at a time on the countertop to test, careful not to touch the item.  Then, touch the top of the battery to one end of the item and the wire to the other end of the item.  Did the light bulb light?  We were warned: Don't keep the electricity flowing through the item for a long time.  Conductors can get hot!  We tested each item on the list and the fell into one of two categories, insulators or conductors.

No light = insulator.

Light = conductor.

We discussed together what happened in the experiment and why some items conducted electricity and some did not.  Prior to testing each item, the boys predicted whether it would be an insulator or conductor.  I wrote down their predictions and then the results.  We had a fun time working on this science experiment together!  This week, Adisson will learn about circuits and Zander will continue watching some videos at Science4Us to better understand what electricity is and how we get it to our home.

Experiment print out from Time4Learning and information from Science4Us.

And there's the first post in our new Science Series!  What did you think?

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