History of Electricity

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This is a series of demonstrations about different electrical and magnetic phenomena. Some require highly specialized equipment like a Wimshurst machine, while others involve very simple equipment like iron filings on paper above a magnet, or a comb and balloon to demonstrate static electricity. The lesson plan is a script educators can use while demonstrating the different electrical phenomena.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Lodestone
  • Paper clips
  • Magnets
  • Paper
  • Iron filings
  • Balloon
  • Confetti
  • Comb
  • Sink with faucet or hose outside
  • Wimshurst machine
  • Large Nail
  • 6V battery
  • Pennies
  • Zinc
  • Salt-water soaked paper
  • Light, motor, or meter
  • 12V DC power supply (4-6 Amps)
  • Thick wire
  • Compass
  • Magnet wire
  • Electromagnet
  • Analog ammeter
  • Hand-crank generator
  • Battery


  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Charges and Currents
      • Electromagnetic Fields
      • Electric Circuits
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Technology and History

Informal Categories

  • Historical Reenactment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • AAAS