The first current electricity lab/activity consists of:

1. Electricity/water analogy – It uses leading questions and student’s previous knowledge of electrostatics to help them relate electric current and the flow of charge to the flow of water.

2. Hands-on basic DC circuit construction – It will illustrate the difference between conductors and insulators and allows students to qualitatively understand the difference between series and parallel circuits. Timing: This lab/activity should take about an hour to complete.

Acknowledgments: This lab is built loosely around how Potential Difference is presented in Hewitt's Conceptual Physics

Group Size: Small groups

Learning Objectives:
The objective of this lab/activity is to:
a) Introduce the following key concepts:
-Electricity/water analogy
-Basic circuits (series and parallel)
b) Reinforce the following concepts from the previous lab work:
-Attraction of unlike charges
-Repulsion of like charges
-Conductors and Insulators
-The difference between conductors and insulators
-Potential difference


Guiding Questions:
How is the flow of water similar to the flow of electricity? What types of materials work in circuits? What is the difference between series and parallel circuits?

No materials besides a thinking cap are required for part 1 of this activity. For part 2, each lab group should have one 1.5 V bulb and bulb receptacle, one D-cell battery, a battery holder, and two connecting wires for question 1. Students will use various conducting materials for question 2. Add another bulb and two more connecting wires for question three. Add another bulb, another battery and holder, and six more connection wires for the extra credit.

Part 1: Lab groups should answer the questions together. Some groups may require assistance making the connections. They should get through these questions in 10 minutes. Reaching a class consensus on the answers to part 1 is helpful.

Part 2: Connecting the bulb and battery is pretty straightforward. The battery holder makes life easier, but rubber bands and tinfoil will work just fine.
Question 1: Students should construct a series circuit.
Question 2: Students should construct another series circuit with various conducting materials. Some fun choices include: braces, pencil lead, belt buckles, etc…
Question 3: Students should construct a series circuit and a parallel circuit or some version of one.
Extra Credit: Students should come up with some interesting combinations of series, parallel and/or circuit combinations.


The questions for part 1 were covered as a class, so these should just be graded for completeness. For Part 2:

  • Data tables should be graded for organization and correctness.
  • Conclusions should be graded for critical thinking and clarity of thought.


Answer Key or Rubric:
See Answer Key attachment below. Many of the the diagrams will not paste in properly.

Attached Files:

Word Answer Key

PDF Answer Key

Potential Difference and Circuits Lesson Plan

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