Electrons, Electricity and Ecstatic Students!


Our science laboratory has a new addition to the equipment available for students to experience the breadth of the sciences; a Van De Graff generator. Our college is fortunate to have a fully equipped science laboratory and as our secondary school range of programs broadens and grows, so too do the learning experiences of our students in years 7 – 9.

We have a new science teacher who has joined the Featherbrook College teaching staff; Ben Cook has come with considerable teaching experience and it was during one of his lessons with year 9 students on Thursday, that I saw just how engaged the students were in the lab with the new piece of equipment. The learning intention for the lesson was for “Students to observe the effects of static electricity and identify how electrons move when charged”. The ‘Van De Graaff generator was central to the students’ experience.

Students used their prior knowledge from the electricity unit of study they have been doing, to hypothesise the different reactions that would occur during practical demonstrations involving the Van De Graaff generator. The Van De Graaff generator has the potential to store up to 200,000 Volts! As part of the demonstration some students were able to store this charge within their body, making their hair stand on its ends. After the demonstration students were able apply their prior knowledge of the relationship between volts, amps and resistance to explain how 200,000 Volts can be safely stored on an object without causing a severe electrical shock. I learnt a little along the way and was equally engaged as the students.

Year 9 students Zac and Nathan bravely stepped forward to feel a (very safe) charge generated by the Van De Graaff generator, gaining a lived 'circuitry' experience of the way the electrons behave in relation to the material they were in contact with. Their hair standing on its ends of course was a highlight of the experience.