Flying Leaves- Static electricity experiment KS2
This static electricity experiment for children (KS2) with flying leaves can help them begin to think about electricity and make links to experiences they may have had with it previously. Most people can think of times when they have experienced static electricity, such as rubbing a balloon over your head to make your hair stand up. Other examples include rubbing a balloon to stick it on the wall or having your hair stand on end after sliding down a plastic slide.
These are all examples of when a static charge is created. Usually materials are electrically neutral and have an equal number of protons and electrons. However, when some materials rub together (e.g. ones with weakly bound electrons against those with few electrons in their clouds/shells) some of the electrons can jump over from one material to the other. The result is that one material becomes positively charged and the other negatively charged.
What you need
- Your head (with hair) and/or a knitted sweater
- Pieces of tissue paper (cut into leaf shapes or just cut into pieces) and even pieces of paper or even card (optional)
Children will need to rub the balloons on their sweaters or hair to ‘charge the balloon’. They can then move the balloon over pieces of tissue paper or leaves to get them to fly up onto the balloon. Rubbing the balloon against their hair or sweater will charge the balloon with static electricity. The balloon will attract the pieces of paper until the charge wears off.
Questions to ask
- What happened? What did you notice?
- Is there a way to stop the papers/leaves from flying onto the balloon? How do you know?
- Would using different types of paper or leaves make a difference in how it works? Why or why not?
- Do the papers/leaves stick for longer if you rub the balloon for a longer time? How do you know?
What they get from it- Static electricity experiment KS2
This is an excellent way for children to observe and think about everyday events from a scientific perspective. Children can also create mini experiments to explore how differences in the materials used, the time needed to create a static charge etc. can have an impact on the strength of static electricity.
Take it further
- Children can try experimenting to see if using different types of paper, such as plain paper, card, etc. works for this experiment.
- Do different types of paper still stick to the balloons? Do they work as well? Why or why not?
- Children can also try this out with real leaves.
- Can they get autumn leaves that have fallen off the trees to stick to the balloons? They may need to try various leaves, such as different sizes, thicknesses and shapes, to see what may or may not work. Do dry leaves, or damp leaves work better?
- You can also see other ideas for learning with leaves on my post about autumn leaf activities.