Sparks, Magic Rods and Much More

 

Have you ever watched a thunderstorm? Have you ever wondered how one of natureís most spectacular phenomena was created? The sweater attracts our hair, the plastic wrap sticks to the pot. What is this all about? You can get a pretty good idea by doing some simple experiments. All you need is plastic rods, oven roasting bags, aluminum pie pans, pith balls and a few more common materials.

 

Experiments Needed

There is a natural curiosity in all of us, especially children, to get to know our world. The phenomena of nature and technical devices often call our attention. The teaching of physics should be based on this natural motivation.

The teaching should always start with getting to know the phenomenon itself by getting more and more personal experiences with it. Later, for the purpose of thorough studies, phenomena should be reproduced by experiments. Theoretical explanation should only come afterwards. Students should be urged to think creatively. If a physical law is discovered by the student, then it is understood more deeply. Notions should be acquired by usage.

This means that we, the teachers, have to create the opportunity for observation and individual or group work. More experiments are needed. They should be very interesting and demonstrative. Even with very simple hand-made instruments you can make interesting observations. Measurement should not be the first aim. Rather, it should be awakening interest and closely studying phenomena.

Activities are Fun

Here we provide you with a set of hands-on experiments from the field of electrostatics in the form an activity guide and work sheet. All the phenomena are connected to our everyday life and experiences. Students themselves, through their own observations, can discover the basic laws of electrostatics. (types of electric charge, Coulombís law, induced charge separation and grounding) They can learn about how their sweater makes those sparks, why pieces of paper can be lifted by a plastic rod and a lot more.

Letís solve the mystery of physics together!

For these activities, please visit our web site at http://www.uark.edu/depts/physinfo. A similar set of activities in electromagnetism entitled, "Build Your Own Motor", may be published in a later issue of Science Scope and will join these activities shortly. Students can build their own speaker and electric motor.