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In this activity, learners make an electroscope out of a foam cup, straw, aluminum pie pan, thread, and foil. Learners use their electroscopes to test for static electricity. Demonstrate electric forces and explain why materials with the same negative charge (electrons) repel when they interact. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on Archive.org.]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 11

Resource Type:

English, Spanish

Materials List (per student)

  • ballpoint pen
  • foam cup
  • nonbendable plastic straw
  • aluminum pie pan
  • glue
  • thread
  • 1-inch square of aluminum foil
  • tape
  • foam plate
  • balloon


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


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, WGBH Educational Foundation, 2003

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0229796
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • PBS