Robots and electric eels.

Supports: National Curriculum Key Stage 2, Units 2F, 4F and 6G (view Irish curriculum links)
Suitable for: Years 4, 5 and 6

The time for whole session is about 1½ hours. This can be varied by taking shorter paths through the material. Choices may depend on the apparatus available or the particular needs of the class.

Outline of content
Aims to:

  • Establish what the children already know, using demos and class experiments
  • Investigate simple circuits through class experiments and deduce rules for a current to flow
  • Provide a clear analogy of conduction and electric circuits through a game
  • Show some materials are conductors and others are insulators through class experiments
  • Investigate the conductivity of materials including water and semi-conductors using a ‘sound box’
  • Provide guidance for safe use of electrical appliances in the home
  • Show that some materials can change their conductivity and explore uses
  • Demonstrate and discuss up-to-date applications by linking the children’s knowledge with their experience

Points to note:
Please read the notes about safety and agree the assessment with the teacher before the session!

Cross references:

  • The slides in the PowerPoint presentation are referenced in the table and have commentary notes
  • As the presentation may be running throughout the session some simple slides provide a suitable background, alternatively switch to a black screen
  • Apparatus details are linked to the relevant sections
  • Notes about safety are included with the actitivties
  • Vocabulary: The presentation uses expressions included in the KS1 and 2 strategies

Misconceptions to be corrected:

  • When a circuit is completed, the current (electrons or particles carrying charge) pours out of the battery and round the circuit
  • When the current stops flowing the electrons all go back into the battery
  • Materials are either very good conductors or very good insulators
  • It is safe to operate mains switches with wet hands
  • The physics that they learn is not relevant to their everyday lives

Feedback from the trials
"I found that the children had lots of ideas to contribute and were fascinated. I therefore allowed the discussions to continue and answered numerous questions so that the sessions took whole afternoons. Teachers, in each school, commented that the whole group was interested and took part fully. The schools which were visited had very different characters and the total ability range was very wide".

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