Sixth and Seventh Grade Van de Graaff Demonstration Adds Spark to Science Class

“There are some things that are so just interesting in this world. Static Electricity is one of them.” With this introduction, Director of Campus Connections (and science teacher at heart) Mr. Bruce Crossman visited seventh and sixth grade Earth Science classes last week with his Van de Graaff machine to add a little spark to the curriculum.

Due to a curriculum adjustment, both sixth and seventh grade students are taking Earth Science this year. The classes are all currently studying weather, and because the Indian Creek science program is experiential and lab-based, the students conducted multiple labs: They studied the water cycle and how clouds are formed, and then they made clouds in a jar. Then they studied the science of electricity and lightning, and Mr. Crossman and the Van de Graaff generator came in to help the students experience static electricity in a variety of ways.

The Van de Graaff generator creates static electricity by spinning a giant rubber band to generate electrons on the outside of a globe. Students can see, hear, and feel the electricity that is produced, as the generator generates its charge on whatever it comes into contact with, as it seeks to “neutralize” or establish equilibrium. Mr. Crossman demonstrated the charge created by “zapping” the charge with a wand, and showed the energy produced by the static electricity by resting aluminum pie pans on the globe and then turning the machine on. Next the students each had the opportunity to touch the Van de Graaff machine while it charged to see how the static electricity affected their bodies. This was especially fun and impactful for the students.

For Mr. Crossman, this activity which he has been doing with student since 1977, is al about having fun with science while learning important lessons. “For kids this age, hands-on, lab-oriented lessons are the best. Students need to experience science in ways that they can see, feel, and hear. Along with the Van de Graaff demonstration, Mr. Crossman illustrated how grounding is important in storms, and discussed the science behind lightning rods. This demonstration showed students how fast and fierce electricity can be, and gave the children important tips on how to stay safe and to keep buildings safe. Thank you to Mr. Crossman and his Van de Graaff machine for bringing this illuminating lesson to our sixth and seventh grades.

Click here to view a gallery of sixth and seventh grade Van de Graaff photos.