Weather at Home: Make lightning with common household items

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DENVER (KDVR) — If you are looking for an activity to help keep your kids busy and learning at home, you can try this simple science experiment: make lightning.

This classic science experiment is sure to bring your kids hours of entertainment and can be made with common household items.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Aluminum pie pan
  • Piece of wool fabric (I used a wool dryer ball)
  • Styrofoam plate
  • Pencil with an eraser
  • Thumbtack

Instructions:

  1. Push the thumbtack through the middle of the bottom of the pie pan
  2. Poke the eraser of the pencil through the sharp end of the thumbtack (this will be used as a handle for the pie pan)
  3. Turn the Styrofoam plate upside down and rub it with wool for a minute or two
  4. Pick up the pie pan using the pencil and place it on top of the Styrofoam plate
  5. Touch the pie pan with your finger and you will feel a shock. If you turn the lights out and repeat the steps, you will be able to see a little spark of light when touching the pie pan

How does it work?

In this experiment, your finger holds a negative charge called electrons. The Styrofoam plate and pie pan create a positive charge called protons in the aluminum pie pan. Once the two charges connect when your finger touches the pan, it creates a small spark.

This is similar to how lightning forms in the atmosphere. Lightning is a burst of electricity in a thunderstorm. When a thundercloud is way up in the sky, there are small pieces of ice that are bumping into each other as they move around. This creates an electrical charge in the cloud. When the negatively charged particles at the bottom of the cloud attract and join with the positively charged particles on the ground, it creates an electrical current called lightning.

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