Hello Science Superheroes.

Have you ever touched doorknob and got an electric shock?  That shock was probably caused by static electricity.

What is static electricity?

Well…you know how everything around us is made up of atoms!  Inside atoms there are even tinier things called electrons.  Electrons can jump from one atom to another like flea jumping from dog to dog.  The jumping is called electricity.

Static electricity happens when too many electrons have jumped onto an object and they need to get off. 

The shock you felt when you touched the doorknob is the electrons leaving your body and jumping to an object with fewer electrons.

In short, static electricity is electrons moving from something that has a big build-up of electrons to something with fewer electrons.

Today we are going to use items from around your home to play with static electricity.  We have three demonstrations: 

  • The Dancing Ghost
  • Roll a can without touching it.
  • Levitating plastic bag

Here’s what you will need:

A balloon

An empty soft drink can

A tiny piece of tissue paper

A very light plastic bag (such as one for fruit and vegetables)

A small towel

The Dancing Ghost

Grab a small piece of tissue paper (about 4 cm) and cut out a ghost shape.  Blow up the balloon and rub it against your hair for at least 10 seconds. This creates a static charge on the balloon. 

Lay the ghost shape on a table.  Slowly bring the charged balloon close to the ghost and watch it rise towards the balloon.  With a bit of practise you should be able to make the ghost dance.

What do you think is happening here?

Roll a can without touching it

Lay an empty soft drink (aluminium) can on a flat smooth surface like a table or a desk.  Rub the balloon against your hair to charge it up. 

Hold the balloon close to the can and watch it roll towards the balloon.  See if you can build up some momentum and get the can across the length of the table.

What do you think is happening in this demonstration?  Is it the same or different to the Dancing Ghost?

Levitating plastic bag

Lay the bag flat on a table and cut across the top of the bag to create a 3 cm ring or circle of plastic.  Lay the ring flat on the table.

Instead of our hair, for this demonstration we are going to rub the balloon with a towel for 20 seconds to create a charge.

Then using the same towel, rub the plastic ring for about 20 seconds to create a charge.

Hold the plastic ring about 30cm above the balloon and it should float. It’s levitating!

What is happening in this demonstration? Is it the same or different to the last two?  What effect did charging up both the balloon and the plastic ring have?


Next week we’ll be making our own board games.

Take care Creative Kids,