Charge and Carry

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In this activity about electricity, learners produce a spark that they can feel, see, and hear. Learners rub a Styrofoam plate with wool to give it an electric charge. Then, they use the charged Styrofoam to charge an aluminum pie pan. Essentially, learners build an electrophorus (Greek for "charge carrier"). This resource also contains instructions on how to build a large charge carrier called a "Leyden Jar" using a plastic film can.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per student)

  • A Stryofoam dinner plate (Acrylic plastic sheets also work well, as will old LP records)
  • A piece of wool cloth (Other fabrics may work, but wool will definitely work.)
  • A disposable aluminum pie pan
  • A Styrofoam cup
  • Hot glue gun or masking tape
  • A plastic 35 mm film can
  • A nail slightly longer than the film can
  • Some aluminum foil
  • Tap water
  • A neon glow tube (optional, available from Radio Shack)


  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Charges and Currents
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Elementary Particles and Nuclear Physics
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • hear
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • California Department of Education
  • NEC Foundation of America