Objective: Through a bonding, group activity explain fundamentals of flow of electrons
Explanation: In this activity, the facilitator will be a human battery and the learners will act as a conductive material, passing electrons from one to another until electrons go from one hand of the facilitator to another hand.
Briefly explain the concept of electron flow and demonstrate to learners that they will be part of a living electric circuit.
*Optional: Show a video demonstrating the flow of electrons
Question: Does anyone know the parts of an atom?
Key concepts: Electricity flows in a closed-circuit due to the need of electrons to flow from a point where there are many of them (high number of electrons) to a point where there are less of them (low number of electrons). This only happens when a circuit is connected to a power source and is closed.
Group students into a circle.
Concept: Each students left hand will be the positive side of the human battery and the right hand will be the negative side. Since electrons are negative the hand with the electron in it is negatively charged, and the empty hand is positive. Electrons will be taken using the left hand and made available to take from the right hand. Explain that every person needs to have an electron at all times to be in equilibrium. If they need one they will have to take it from the person to their left using only their left hand.
Give one laser-cut artefact to every learner, these will serve as the electrons. Each student will hold it in their right hand.
Question: Can anyone name any conductive materials, or insulating materials?
Concept: Explain that at this time they are conductive metal atoms, each of them has an electron and is happy in equilibrium. Electricity can only flow through conductive materials, like metal! Inside conductive materials electrons can be passed from atom to atom, but not inside insulating materials. This is why wires are made of metal and wrapped in plastic.
The facilitator will then play the role of the battery. They have no electron and are not in equilibrium. They connect themselves into the circle and ‘steal’ an electron from one student. This starts a chain reaction and initiates the “current flow”. Students ‘steal’ an electron from the student to their left until the facilitator ‘battery’ gets its electron stolen in turn then stop.
Concept: Batteries have chemical reaction going on inside them that cause them to have a build up of electrons on one side, and a shortage on the other. When they are attached in a circuit that flows from their positive side all the way to their negative side, they pump electrons through conductive materials. Explain that the actual flow of current consists of a continuous flow of electrons until the power source runs out of them.
Question: How fast does electricity travel through conductive material?
Can they pass their electrons continuously at the speed of light?
Time a few runs to see if they can improve their passing and achieve a solid teamwork goal.
To simulate a circuit break, the facilitator can designate a learner by taping them on the shoulder with a post it note. They are then designated to be the switch or circuit break. When the learner loses their electron they tilt sideways and simply do not ‘steal’ any electron. This will stop the flow. Then the facilitator can activate the switch at random by removing the post-it and restarting the flow.
Concept: If there is a break in a wire the electricity will not flow. It needs to be a complete circuit to flow continuously.
To simulate a light being powered by the circuit, designate a learner and ask him/her to say “ON” only when an electron is in his/her hands.
Concept: If electricity passes at the speed of light, it would stand to reason that the electric flow would actually be continuous and the light would always be on.
Challenge the learners to come up with representations of other scenarios that involve flow of current (e.g. using a motor, a speaker, a combination of elements). Also, challenge learners to pass the electrons really fast (Can you pass electrons at the speed of light?)