Electric Fleas

Have you ever made balloons stick to a wall at a party? Have you ever heard a sweater crackle when it is taken out of a dryer? You have been learning about static electricity. You and your family members can observe how static electricity affects objects by starting your own electrical flea circus!

Materials

Procedure

Ask an adult to help. Lay the sheet of white paper on a table or a counter. Place the four metal cans on the four corners of the paper. Scatter some dry rice grains on the paper. Rub both sides of the plastic sheet vigorously with a wool cloth or with some animal fur to “charge” it. Then carefully place the plastic sheet so that it rests on the four “supports.” Watch the “fleas” dance! You can also try using different materials for fleas, such as puffed rice, glitter, or bits of plastic foam.

Results

What happened to the “fleas” when you placed the plastic sheet over the paper? Do you think the plastic sheet and the fleas had the same or different electric charges at first? How can you tell? What do you think caused the fleas to “dance” in this activity?