Electricity Lesson Plan

This was an elementary school lesson plan that I adapted to teach to my preschool aged children along with some of their friends.

Atoms and Electricity
Science Lesson Plan

Key Terms:


Materials needed:

Straight pin
Proton/Neutron/Electron signs (PDF included if you click on the link)
Candy/Frosting/Paper plates
Two strong magnets
Styrofoam cup
Small pieces of paper
Circuit board kit with light bulb, battery, & wires
Random items to test conductivity
Christmas light strand
Circuit ball
Circuit boards
Circuit handout (PDF included below)
Crayons or markers

Lesson Plan:

Introduction: Did you know that everything around us made of tiny, invisible things called atoms? Atoms are very, very small. They are smaller than an ant, smaller than a speck of dust. Atoms are so small that we can't see them with our own eyes or even with a magnifying glass. Atoms are so tiny that you have to have a really special, powerful microscope to see them. There are atoms in the floor and on the table and in the chair and on the door. Do you see this tiny pin here? Guess how many atoms are on this pin? Do you think there are 10 atoms? 100 atoms? 1000 atoms? How about five million atoms? That's right--atoms are so tiny that five million atoms could fit on one tiny pin. That's why we can't see them very well.

Atoms are made up of even smaller pieces. Each atom has three different parts called protons, neutrons, and electrons. We are going to pretend to be an atom.

Create a human demonstration of an atom. Pass out proton/neutron/electron signs. Have each child be a different part of the atom--protons and neutrons in the center nucleus with electrons running circles around the nucleus.

Now let's make a model of an atom that you can keep. We are going to use candy to do this… You don't get to eat the candy right now, but at the end of class if you remember what I've taught you, I may hand out some of the extra candy!

Use candy, frosting, and paper plates to create models of atoms. -Protons and neutrons are mints or other medium-sized circular candies. Electrons are m & m's or other small candies--they should be noticeably smaller than protons and neutrons. You could also -use pull-and-peel Twizzlers to create lines in the electron cloud to show movement.

Now that you know all about atoms, we are going to talk more about those crazy little electrons that jump around on the outside of atoms. Why do electrons move around so much? Well, for one reason, electrons don't like to get close to each other. If another electron comes too close, then the electrons move out of the way. Sometimes electrons move around so much that they even jump from one atom to another. When electrons move like this, they create something called electricity. Who knows what electricity is? Electricity is just the movement of electrons. Electrons--Electricity--that's why the two words sound so alike.

At this point, you could use several strong magnets to demonstrate how electrons repel each other.

Anything that uses a battery or plugs into a wall to work uses electricity. Can you find something in this room that uses electricity? [Answers might include a computer, TV, lamp, etc.] There is also a special kind of electricity called static electricity that doesn't even need a battery. Let's learn about at static electricity first.

Have you ever walked across a carpet floor in thick socks and then touched a metal door?
Did you feel a little spark go through you? That spark was electrons. When you walk on the floor you rub off electrons and create a little collection of electrons. But remember that electrons do not like to get close to each other. When you collect too many electrons you build static electricity and the electrons look for a way to escape. When you touch metal, the electrons escape and you feel a little spark of electricity.

Let's look at some other types of static electricity:

Balloon/hair demo
Rub a balloon on shirt
Watch it make hair rise and see how it can stick to things because of static electricity…

Styrofoam cup experiment
Break up little pieces of paper
Rub a Styrofoam cup on hair/shirt/etc. so it builds up static electricity
Move the Styrofoam cup over the little bits of paper and watch the paper "jump" because of the static electricity.
(You can also do the same with a balloon if you don't have Styrofoam).

Static electricity is a lot of fun, but the kind of electricity we use most in our life is different. The other kind of electricity is called current electricity. That's the kind of electricity that uses batteries or plugs to work. Batteries are just special storage containers for electrons. When you connect a battery to a wire the electrons will travel through the wire. Then, they can make a light go on or a buzzer ring.  Let's look at how it works.

Light bulb demo… Connect a light bulb to a battery with wires. [I used a circuit board kit].Watch it light up.

Electrons only like to travel through certain types of things. If you put a rubber ball up to a battery, nothing will happen. But if you used tinfoil to connect a battery and light bulb, the light would go on. Let's experiment to see what kinds of things electrons like to travel through.

Conductivity experiment: Test different items to see which things complete the circuit and make the light go on. Sort the items into two groups: conductors and non-conductors.

In order for electricity to work, you also have to have what is called a closed circuit. That means you have to have a complete circle connecting the wires to the battery to the item you are turning on. If the circuit gets broken, the light won't work.

Let's look at some Christmas lights for example. If I take out one of these Christmas light bulbs the rest of the chain won't work. (Take out one light). When I took out the light I broke the circuit. If the circuit is broken it is called an open circuit and the electricity doesn't work. To help the electricity work again, we need to make a closed circuit again! (Put light bulb back in).

Did you know that human beings can conduct electricity? That's why we have to be so careful around plugs and sockets. It could really hurt to be electrocuted. That's when too much electricity enters a human and injures them. I have a special electricity ball though that won't hurt you. Let's see if we can make it conduct electricity.

Use circuit ball.
Create a circle adding one person at a time holding hands all around. Demonstrate how a circuit works. What happens if one person lets go? The balls turns off. That's because we broke the circuit. But when we are all holding hands then we create a closed circuit and the electricity flows to the ball and makes it light up.

When you have lots of circuits, you can create something called a circuit board. Circuit boards are in all of the electric things around us.

Show samples of circuit boards. [We have a lot of actual circuit boards because my husband likes to take apart old broken electronics ]

In your house you have lots of wires inside your wall that conduct electricity. When you plug something in you are connecting it to a huge circuit. Sometimes when there is a storm, the circuit can be broken. Maybe a power line falls down or something else gets in the way of the circuit. Then you lose all of your electricity! Has that ever happened to any of you? Electricity is pretty important! Without electricity we couldn't do many fun things like watch TV, listen to CDs, or hang up pretty Christmas lights.

This would be a great time to stop to read and discuss a book such as The Magic School Bus and The Electric Field Trip by JoAnna Cole.

Okay, we're done with our lesson for now. But let's review to see what we learned today…
What are atoms? What are electrons? What is electricity? What is a circuit? What kinds of things conduct electricity?

Review and discuss key terms. Maybe give the kids a candy or small prize if they remember key points from the lesson.

Okay, I just have one more assignment for you. Here is a picture of a light bulb and a battery. But the light bulb can't shine yet, because it has an open circuit. I want you to close the circuit and color in the light bulb so it can shine! On the back of the handout, you can draw a picture of your favorite thing that uses electricity. Have fun!


With younger kids, you may want to skip over some of the discussion of atoms and just say that electricity is created by the movement tiny particles called electrons. You could also simplify some of the other explanations. For older kids you could explain series and parallel circuits as well. You could also tell some stories about the history of electricity... Franklin, Edison, etc. Also, if you have a circuit board activity kit you can enjoy experimenting with different projects at the end of the lesson.

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