How to Make a Spark - Weather Science for Kids
After showing JZ (5) and J-Bug (4) how to make rain in a jar, JZ asked me how to make lightning. I decided to show him by demonstrating static electricity. A lightning bolt is basically a dramatic display of static electricity in action. You see lightning when a spark of moving electrons races up or down between a cloud and the ground.
To demonstrate how to make lightning I set up two simple science experiments.
How to Make a Spark
- pencil with an eraser
- aluminum tray or pie tin
- wool cloth (I used a wool baby wrap)
- Styrofoam plate (I used a clean meat tray)
To show JZ how to make lightning I stuck a pushpin through the center of the aluminum tray then stuck the pencil eraser to the pushpin. The pencil served as a handle to lift the aluminum tray.
Next I had JZ vigorously rub the wool on the Styrofoam tray for two minutes. It really takes two solid minutes, and he had to rub hard and fast for the experiment to work. Note: If you don't have wool, rub the Styrofoam on your hair for two minutes.
Finally, we picked up the aluminum tray using the pencil handle and set it on the Styrofoam plate. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried I could not capture the spark on film. It didn't even show up in the video I took. To see the spark you'll have to try this for yourself! Trust me, it's a lot of fun and worth the few minutes.
The second experiment we used to demonstrate how to make lightning was much more simple and only requires two items.
- metal spoon (or anything metal)
Have your child rub the inflated balloon vigorously on his head for two minutes, or take turns rubbing it on each other. The go into a dark room and touch the spoon to the balloon and see what happens!