A Hair Raising Experience
Lesson Objective
Balloons are used to help students explore static electricity.
Background Information for Teacher
Static electricity exists when an object has lost or gained electrons. All matter is made of atoms. The nucleus of an atom contains
protons, having a positive charge, and neutrons having no charge. Electrons, which have a negative charge, spin around the
nucleus. Usually the protons and electrons are in balance; however, when an object loses some of its electrons, it is positively
charged, and an object with extra electrons is negatively charged. Both objects now have static electricity. The electricity is at rest; it
does not flow through the object as in current electricity.
Student Prior Knowledge
Three balloons ( might need more in case one pops)
Bits of tissue, sand, and paper
One plastic bag
2 pieces of thread or lightweight string about 2 feet long (exact length is not critical)
wool as in previous activity
Step-by-Step Guided Lesson
Step 1: Start Video
(Tips: Interact with the video by pausing, to ask questions or discuss information viewed with student.)
Step 2: Teach Lesson
Begin by discussing the following questions:
Have you ever been shocked after walking on a carpet or putting on a sweater? Combing your hair? Getting out of a car with
cloth seats? Can you explain what caused the shock?
Describe your experiences playing with magnets. Have you noticed that sometimes two magnets will repel each other? What
causes them to repel?
Why do your clothes stick together when they come out of the dryer?
Why do you sometimes get a shock on a cold day when you touch metal?
What other experiences have you had with static electricity?
Now, have students perform two simple activities to reintroduce them to the concepts of static electricity that they may have already
Activity One
1. Give the student a balloon and a plastic bag. Have the student blow up and tie off their balloons. They should also blow air
into their bags and tie them off as best they can.
2. Instruct them to create static electricity by rubbing the balloon on their clothes or hair and testing it for static properties.
They should do the same with the plastic bag.
3. Allow the student time to explore with static electricity. The student can freely explore around the room, or they may need
some direction. Having an "exploration box" with bits of tissue, sand, paper, and other small items available can direct the
4. If available, have the student explore static electricity with the fur and glass and metal rods. Rubbing fur on a glass rod
produces a greater charge than rubbing fur with a metal rod.
5. Discuss what they have discovered. The following questions may be used to guide the discussion:
What did you discover about your balloon?
What did you discover about your plastic bag?
Which produced the greater amount of static charge?
What objects will your balloon attract?
How is your balloon like a magnet?
Did your balloon attract objects more easily at some times than others?
6. Ask the student how these experiences could be called electricity. Help the student to determine ways the electricity with
the balloons is the same and different from electricity in other situations.
7. Direct the student in listing examples of electricity under two headings:
Electricity that moves along a pathway to light a light, moves a motor, etc. (current electricity)
Electricity that acts like a magnet, attracting and repelling objects (static electricity)
8. Guide the student in defining the two kinds of electricity. Use working definitions, definitions created by the student. These
definitions may not be exactly correct but can be changed through additional experiences with electricity.
9. List several occurrences of static electricity that happen in everyday life.
Activity Two
1. Blow up 2 balloons and tie each one closed so that the balloons stay inflated.
2. Tie a long thread or string onto the end of each balloon.
3. Give each balloon a static charge by rubbing it with fur, wool, or your hair.
4. Hold each balloon by the end of the thread and try to bring the balloons close to each other. Observe what happens.
5. What conclusions can you make about the activity? Again, think about what is happening to the atoms in the balloons.
When we rub the balloons with the wool, each of the balloons acquires a negative charge. Negatively charged particles called
electrons are transferred from the wool to the balloons, giving the balloons an overall negative charge. Because the two balloons
have the same kind of charge, they repel each other.
Step 3: Complete the worksheet attached below.
Worksheet for deeper understanding
Step 4: Review. Start the next lesson with the game or activity attached below for review so the student can demonstrate
understanding of this lesson before moving forward.
Stuck-Up Balloon Activity
piece of fur or wool
a blank space on a nearby wall
1. Blow up a balloon and tie the end so that the balloon stays inflated. Without doing anything else, hold the balloon against the wall and see if
it will stick. Observe what happens.
2. Next, briskly rub the balloon across a piece of wool; you can use a sweater, sock, scarf, or rug.
3. Hold the balloon against the wall and see if it will stick. Does the balloon stay?
4. What conclusions can you make about the activity? Think about what might be happening to the atoms of the materials.