Cheap and Fun Electric Science!
The hardware store is a place brimming with possibilities for fun and cheap science experiments. Did you know you can buy light switches for $0.69, and a foot of copper electrical wire for less than that?! Not only that, but you can buy a couple of large D cell batteries for $1 at the Dollar Tree. I will admit I already had some batteries and light bulbs in a science kit at school. Lowes sells the wire for a few cents a foot. If you tell them you are a school teacher, and look a bit pitiful, then they will cut it into foot segments for you :). I actually bought the light switches because one of my students wondered how they worked. I bought one to break apart with a hammer, so the kids could see the inner workings of the switch. The others I bought for students to connect to the battery and the light bulb with the wires. The kids were really excited to experiment with this. We had already been building circuits, so I didn’t exactly tell students how to connect the light switch to make the bulb turn on and off. I let them figure this out with the information they had already learned.
Here’s a little secret. If you want really cheap light bulbs, you can get LED bulbs if you buy a small flashlight for a dollar at Wal-mart. Then break the flashlight with a hammer to get the bulbs out. You will get around seven bulbs if you do this. However, the bulbs I used for this were in a science kit, and I didn’t have to buy them. They were little incandescent bulbs.
The next thing you can do for really cheap fun is this. Get a regular light bulb that you would put in a lamp, place one out for kids to experiment with if they have already learned how to build circuits. Challenge the kids to make the lightbulb light up. I tell them they can use up to five batteries. The kids won’t be able to light up the bulb. I know this, but they don’t. Several lessons previous to this, I had kids really examine the writing on the batteries, and some students noticed the 1.5 v. I had also had them pass around some old blown out light bulbs to study the broken filaments and the writing on the bulbs. If they make the connection, they will realize that the bulbs need 120 volts. The batteries only provide 1.5 volts each. It would take A LOT of batteries to power the light bulb. More than they could stretch out on a table (but that’s my little secret, wink wink). The fun in this activity is asking…well, why didn’t that work?
(Sidenote: I only have a few of these items mentioned above for students to experiment with when they finish their work. I don’t buy a whole class set.)
I hope you now have some great reasons to do some cheap and easy science experiments!