In Mosa Mack’s Electricity unit, students are led through a progression of three inquiry lessons that focus on the theory of electrical current, a comparison of conductive vs. nonconductive liquids, and the relationship between electricity and magnetism.
Solve: Electricity Mystery + Vocabulary Mind Map Make: Compare Electric Currents in Fresh Water and Salt Water Engineer: Educate about Electricity and Magnetism Safety
Students contextualize Electricity vocabulary in a mind map before helping Mosa Mack solve the mystery of what will light her light bulb so that it burns brightly. By the end of The Solve,students discover that when a circuit is “open”, electrical current cannot flow. Rather, a “closed” circuit allows for the uninterrupted flow of electrical current that can do work. (75 mins)
After going through an investigation and planning process, students draw a visual model that compares the flow of electric current through fresh water and a salt water solution. Learners draw a conclusion about the ideal solution to brightly light a bulb. (180 mins)
Students learn about the magnetic fields that exist around wires that conduct electricity. To help low-income communities avoid the negative impacts of exposure to this magnetism, students develop and design an advocacy campaign that educates homeowners about how electricity and magnetism around power lines work. (150 mins)
Next Generations Science Standards
- Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents. [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include quantitative measurements of energy.]
- Ask questions about data to determine the factors that affect the strength of electric and magnetic forces. [Clarification Statement: Examples of devices that use electric and magnetic forces could include electromagnets, electric motors, or generators. Examples of data could include the effect of the number of turns of wire on the strength of an electromagnet, or the effect of increasing the number or strength of magnets on the speed of an electric motor.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment about questions that require quantitative answers is limited to proportional reasoning and algebraic thinking.]
Science & Engineering Practices
- Asking Questions and Defining Problems
- Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
Disciplinary Core Ideas
- Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer
- Definitions of Energy
- Types of Interactions
Cross Cutting Concepts
- Cause and Effect
- Energy and Matter
- Each lesson in the unit has an Inquiry Scale that provides directions on how to implement the lesson at the level that works best for you and your students.
- “Level 1” is the most teacher-driven, and recommended for students in 4th-5th grades. “Level 4” is the most student-driven, and recommended for students in 7th-8th grades.
- For differentiation within the same grade or class, use different inquiry levels for different groups of students who may require additional support or an extra challenge.
- Students may think that all electricity is dangerous. Electricity is not always dangerous, and depends on a number of factors, including voltage, current and how easy it is for a current to move through an object or person (resistance).
- Since batteries are used to power electronics, students tend to believe that electricity flows through them, which is incorrect. Instead, batteries work by storing negative ions on one end and positive ions on the other with a separator in between. This way, when something like a copper wire is placed on the battery from one end to another, the negatively charged ions travel from the negative end to the positive end, creating current.
- Students sometimes think that electricity is a flow of atoms like the flow of water in a hose. Emphasize that the electrons move along the outer energy level of the charged atoms, bumping each other along, resulting in a current. For example, it’s like soccer players passing a ball down a field, except that in an electric current, the soccer player receiving the ball would not just kick the ball, but would pick up, hold, drop, and then kick the ball along.
- Students often think that water is an excellent conductor of electricity. This may be because they have heard that you should never keep a plugged-in hairdryer near water because of the risk of electrocution. In the investigation, they discover that water containing free ions is best at conducting electricity because of the nature of how electrons will flow along the surface of ions if an electric potential difference is created.
- Charged Atom
- Positive Charge
- Negative Charge
- Brian Walsh, Ph.D.
Dept. of Mechanical Engineering
Center for Space Physics
- Powerpoints for Make and Design
- Solve Student Handout
- Make Student Handout
- Design Student Handout
- Vocabulary Mind Map
New: RocketLit Leveled Reading
* To give our users the most comprehensive science resource, Mosa Mack is piloting a partnership with RocketLit, a provider of leveled science articles.
- Simple Circuits
This article is an introduction to simple circuits and the characteristics of series and parallel circuits. To give students a solid foundation for labs and further learning, we explicitly define the terms: circuit, conductor, and current. Read on to see how cookies rolling down streets are used as an analogy for the different kinds of circuits!
- The Motor Effect
In this article, students read an intro to how electricity and magnetism are used to create electric motors. The article gives students a description of current, electromagnets and how they create a magnetic field in the area around them. Finally, students read a quick introduction to the right-hand rule as it relates to current and the direction of a magnetic field.
- Making a Magnet with Electricity
How tough is it to build an electromagnet and what makes them work? In this article, students read about the basic parts of electric motors and how to increase their strength with additional turns of wire!