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Electric Play Dough

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Grade Range
4th
Group Size
1-2 students
Active Time
45 minutes
Total Time
45 minutes
Area of Science
Physics
Key Concepts
Electricity, energy, circuit, conductor, insulator
Learning Objectives
  • Understand the difference between conducting and insulating materials
  • Demonstrate how to build a closed circuit while avoiding short or open circuits
  • Understand how a circuit can convert electrical energy into light energy
Squishy circuit sculpture of a frog

Overview

If you love doing arts and crafts with your students, this lesson plan is for you! Teach them about energy, electricity, and circuits as they build light-up sculptures, using something they are all familiar with—play dough! Clear step-by-step instructions are provided and no previous experience with circuits is required.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • 4-PS3-2. Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations. Make observations to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence for an explanation of a phenomenon or test a design solution.
PS3.A: Definitions of Energy. Energy can be moved from place to place by moving objects or through sound, light, or electric currents.

PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer. Energy can also be transferred from place to place by electric currents, which can then be used locally to produce motion, sound, heat, or light. The currents may have been produced to begin with by transforming the energy of motion into electrical energy.
Energy and Matter. Energy can be transferred in various ways and between objects.

Credits

Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies

This lesson plan was inspired by the Squishy Circuits project, developed by Dr. AnnMarie Thomas at the University of St. Thomas.

Materials


squishy circuit materials

For each group of students you will need:

  • Electric Play Dough Kit available for purchase from our partner Home Science Tools. Includes:
    • DC hobby motor
    • Piezoelectric buzzer
    • 4 AA Battery pack
    • Jumbo LEDs (25 total — 5 each in red, green, white, yellow, and blue)

You will also need to gather these items:

  • AA batteries (4)
  • Play-Doh®
  • Modeling clay

Optional: instead of using store-bought Play-Doh and modeling clay, you can make your own conductive dough (replaces Play-Doh) and insulating dough (replaces modeling clay). See Electric Play Dough Recipes for materials and directions for making your own dough.

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Grade Range
4th
Group Size
1-2 students
Active Time
45 minutes
Total Time
45 minutes
Area of Science
Physics
Key Concepts
Electricity, energy, circuit, conductor, insulator
Learning Objectives
  • Understand the difference between conducting and insulating materials
  • Demonstrate how to build a closed circuit while avoiding short or open circuits
  • Understand how a circuit can convert electrical energy into light energy

Class Materials