Labs for Static Electricity

Lesson Plans || Learning Outcomes and Activities || Teacher Notes || Labs

We have a collection of ~150 labs in the Laboratory section of the website. Each lab was intended to be used with a lab notebook where students report their data and findings and state their conclusion with supporting evidence and reasoning. The intent was to provide a relatively clear purpose (or question) to students that they would need to address AND to limit the amount of directions. The hope is that the purposes and students' ability to design a procedure would drive the lab activity (in contrast to a detailed set of step-by-step procedures being the driving force of students' activity). As such, each of our labs comes with a Question and Purpose and a short paragraph describing what should be included in students' lab report. On occassion, students are also provided a graphic organizer, data table, or other item to be taped into their notebook. The following pages may be useful for those teachers who wish to adopt or simply trial our Labs with a Purpose approach:

Our Thoughts on the Approach || About Lab Notebooks || Teacher Guides for All Labs



Lab 1: Action at a Distance

What are the three types of charge interactions?

To describe the three types of charge interactions and then to use a negatively charged balloon to determine the type of charge on the top triangle tape and the bottom rectangle tape.

A complete lab write-up includes a Title, a Purpose, a Data section, and a Conclusion/Discussion of Results. The Data section should include observations of the interaction between paper and tape, two tapes charged in like manner, and the top triangle tape and the bottom rectangle tape, and both tapes and a negatively charged balloon. The Conclusion/Discussion should describe the three types of charge interactions; it should also state the charge on the two types of tape and describe the supporting evidence and logic which leads to such a conclusion.

View: Teacher's Guide


Lab 2: Sticky Tape Experiments

How do the variety of materials rank in terms of their relative affinity for electrons?

To charge a variety of materials by rubbing them together and to examine their interactions with a positive, negative and neutral object in order to rank the materials according to their relative affinity for electrons.

A complete lab write-up includes a Title, a Purpose, a Data section, and a Conclusion/Discussion of Results. The Data section should include the provided table. The Conclusion/Discussion section should provide a ranking of the materials according to their relative affinity for electrons. Evidence for the ranking should be discussed. Any suspicious or inconsistent results should be discussed.

View: Teacher's Guide || Data Table


Lab 3: Pop Can Induction

What is the result when two connected conductors are charged using an induction charging process?

To determine the result of charging by induction using a charged object and two initially connected conductors.

A complete lab write-up includes a Title, a Purpose, a Data section, and a Conclusion/Discussion of Results. The Data section should include diagrams showing the steps of the induction charging process and diagrams and notes to show the test used to determine the charge of the two objects once charging was complete. The Conclusion/Discussion should clearly describe the result of the charging by induction, citing evidence from the Data section to support the conclusion.

View: Teacher's Guide


Lab 4: Charging by Induction

What type of charge is acquired by an aluminum pie plate when charged by induction with a positively- and a negatively-charged object?

To determine the type of charge an aluminum pie plate acquires charged by induction using a positively- and a negatively-charged object.

A complete lab write-up includes a Title, a Purpose, a Data section, a Conclusion and a Discussion of Results. The Data section should include a diagram which shows with sufficient detail the two methods which were used to charge the aluminum pie plate by induction. The tests used to identify the resulting charges are also represented in the diagram. The Conclusion answers the question posed in the Purpose of the lab. The Discussion of Results explains in words the evidence which supports the conclusions.

View: Teacher's Guide


Also Available ...

Physics teachers may find the following for-sale tools to be useful supplements to our Lesson Plan and Pacing Guide section:


  1. Task Tracker Subscription (annual purchase)
    A subscription allows teachers to set up classes, add students, customize online assignments, view student progress/scores, and export student scores. Task Tracker accounts allow your students to begin assignments in class or at school and to finish them at home. View our Seat and Cost Calculator for pricing details.
  2. The Solutions Guide
    We publish a free curriculum with >200 ready-to-use Think Sheets for developing physics concepts. The Solutions Guide is a download containing the source documents, PDFs of source documents, and answers/solutions in MS Word and PDF format. An expanded license agreement is included with the purchase. (Cost: $25 download)
  3. Teacher Presentation Pack
    This is a large collection of downloadable content packed with nearly 190 Microsoft PowerPoint slide decks, the corresponding Lesson Notes (as PDF and fully-modifiable MS Word format), about 170 animations (in .gif, .png, and .mp4 file formats), a countless number of ready-to-use images (including the original source documents that would allow for easy modification of those images), and a license that allows teachers to modify and use all the content with their classes on password-protected sites (such as course management systems).  (Cost: $40 download)
  4. Question Bank
    We distribute a Question Bank that includes more than 9300 questions neatly organized according to topic. The Question Bank is the perfect tool for busy teachers or new teachers. Even if you don't use the website with your classes, the Question Bank will assist you in quickly putting together quizzes, tests and other documents with high-quality questions that target student's conceptions of physics principles. And if you do use The Physics Classroom website, the Question Bank is the perfect complement to the materials found at the website. (Cost: $25 download)