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DIY Family Circuit Science

Take apart a simple flashlight and reassemble parts to explore basic circuits in this home science activity. What materials make good conductors of electricity? Find out when you test household materials to "close" a homemade circuit.

DIY Family Circuit Science / Hands-on electronics activity for home

Exploring Circuits and Conductors

In this week's family-friendly science activity, kids learn about electricity by taking apart a small flashlight and using the parts to create a simple circuit. With a few wires that might be salvaged from a household junk drawer, kids create a working circuit that causes the flashlight bulb to light up.

After successfully making a working circuit, kids create a break in the circuit (by detaching one of the wires from the battery) and then test different materials to see which ones can be used as conductors and which ones are insulators. A conductive material is one through which electricity flows easily. When a conductive material is placed in the circuit, it will close the circuit, and the flashlight bulb will light up. Because an insulating material does not let electricity flow easily, when an insulating material is placed in the circuit, the circuit remains open, and the bulb will not light up.

What materials work best as conductors and insulators? Does a material have to be metal to be conductive? Gather a bunch of small objects around the house and put them to the test in this electricity-focused activity. You may even notice that some conductive materials seem to work better than others. Is the light brighter with some materials than others? Why do you think this is?

The following Science Buddies activity on the Scientific American website has all the information you need to do this science activity with your students at home: Which Materials Conduct Electricity?.

Making Connections

Students interested in learning more about circuits and conductors, and exploring closed and open circuits and related concepts of series and parallel circuits, may also enjoy the following projects and resources:

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