How to Demonstrate Static Electricity and Shock Your Friends

Learn a phantom-tastic physics lesson while you learn how to demonstrate static electricity! 

How do you make a tissue dance? You put a little boo-gie in it!

Static electricity is electricity that doesn’t move. You’ve experienced static electricity if you’ve ever rubbed your feet on a carpet and then zapped a friend or sibling.

Let us teach you how to demonstrate static electricity, and put a little boogie in tissue paper ghosts to make them dance in this fun and simple science activity.

Materials you will need:

  • Tissue
  • Black marker
  • Scissors
  • Clear tape
  • A balloon
tissue paper, scissors, marker, tape, balloon- materials needed to demonstrate static electricity

Directions:

Step 1:

Carefully separate the layers of your tissue and pull them apart. We want our tissue paper to be very thin for this activity.

separate toilet paper for static electricity demonstration

Step 2:

Draw ghosts on your tissue pieces then cut them out.

cut out ghosts

Step 3:

Tape the bottom of each ghost to your work surface with clear tape.

tape ghosts to floor

Step 4:

Blow up a balloon then rub it against your hair or against wool. A fluffy wool sweater or blanket will work!

  • While you work on your experiment,  ask your scientist some questions: 
    • Before you hold your balloon over the ghosts, ask your scientist what you think will happen. This called a hypothesis.
    • What happened when you rubbed the balloon against your hair or with wool?
    • What do you think would happen if we didn’t pull the tissue apart?
create static electricity

Step 5:

Hold your balloon 3-4 inches above your ghosts and move it around to make them rise up from the grave and dance!
*If nothing happens right away, try moving the balloon closer to the ghosts or rubbing the balloon again.

Take the experiment further:

  • How many ghosts can you lift up at once?
  • How far away can you hold the balloon from the ghosts and still make them move?
  • What happens if you use different thicknesses of paper? What about different types of paper? Why do you think some types and thicknesses of paper work better than others?
how to demonstrate static electricity

Expand on the Activity! 

Learn more about static electricity

  • Electricity is a form of energy that powers our electronics like our TVs, computers, light bulbs, and more.

  • Static electricity is electricity that doesn’t move. You’ve experienced static electricity if you’ve ever rubbed your feet on a carpet and then zapped a friend or sibling, if you’ve ever zapped yourself touching a doorknob, or if you’ve ever seen lightening before.

  • Electricity is created by teeny tiny particles called protons and electrons. Protons are positively charged, while electrons are negatively charged. Just like magnets, opposites attract. So the positive protons and negative electrons attract each other!

  • When you rubbed the balloon with the cloth, you built up a negative charge on the balloon by adding electrons to it. Our little tissue paper ghosts are positive, so they were attracted to the balloon. This causes them to rise up!

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STEM Slime Activity: Explore Physics with This Oobleck Recipe

If they have fun while they're doing it, does it even count? Make a hypothesis and test it with this STEM slime activity. 

Enjoy messy science with one our favorite activities at the Orlando Science Center! Oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid, meaning it can act like a solid or a liquid depending on what you do to it. With this STEM slime activity, you can learn about the states of matter and viscosity, practice lab skills like measuring and mixing, and have some ooey-gooey fun!

 

Be sure to explore the science behind oobleck toward the bottom of this page and try our other slime recipe so you can compare it to your oobleck! 

 

Recommended age range: Any age; younger scientists may need help measuring but will have fun mixing and playing. Older scientists can explore oobleck’s properties and the topics of polymers and viscosity.

 

Warning: This activity is messy! Mess-friendly play clothes are recommended for this activity! You may also want to set out newspaper or other materials to protect your surfaces, or work in an area you don’t mind getting messy. However, once oobleck dries, it can easily be cleaned up!

Materials:

  • ½ cup cornstarch

  • ¼ cup water

  • Optional: Washable paint or food coloring 

  • Optional: Scent (for example, orange scented oil or peppermint extract)

  • Mixing bowl

  • Craft stick or other stirring utensil

Photo of materials for STEM slime activity

Directions:

Step 1

Measure ½ cup cornstarch and add it to your mixing bowl.

Add cornstarch to mixing bowl

Step 2

Next, measure ¼ cup water and add it to your mixing bowl.

Add water to mixing bowl

Step 3 (optional)

Add a few drops of color or scent to your mixture.

Add coloring or scent to mixing bowl

Step 4

Stir until your mixture looks like glue... That’s it! You’ve made oobleck!

Stir STEM slime activity ingredients together

Step 5

Try some of the ideas below to expand on this activity and learn about oobleck's properties.

Experiment with oobleck STEM slime activity

Step 6

Throw your oobleck in the trash when you are finished. It will mold overnight and clogs drains!

Always dispose of oobleck in the trash can

Experiments:

Once you’ve made your oobleck, it’s time to do some experiments! Before you perform you start this STEM slime activity, make some predictions. Is the oobleck a solid, a liquid, or a gas? What will happen if you poke it? What will happen if you let it sit in your hand?

 

TRY:
  • Poking the oobleck with your craft stick. How does it feel?
  • Gently stepping your craft stick on top of the oobleck. What happens?
  • Holding the oobleck in your hand. What happens when you squeeze it? What happens when you let go?

Expand on the Activity:

  • What happens if you pour oobleck through a container with holes in it, like a colander or a strainer?

  • What happens if you put plastic or LEGO figures in the oobleck? What stories can you tell? Use your imagination!

  • Use highlighter water to make oobleck that glows under a blacklight!

  • Make more! This recipe gives you a small amount of oobleck, but as long as you add twice as much cornstarch as water, you’ll have oobleck!

The Science Behind this STEM Slime Activity: Why Does Oobleck Act Like This?

  • Oobleck is made up of molecules called polymers, which are arranged in long chains. A great example of a polymer is a rubber band. The molecules can be stretched out or bundled up and stuck together like wet spaghetti.
  • When you put pressure on the oobleck, the molecule chains bundle up and stick together, making the oobleck act like a solid.
  • When there is no force on the oobleck, the polymers stretch out, and the oobleck acts like a liquid.
  • Since oobleck can be a solid or a liquid depending on whether you apply force to it, it is called a non-Newtonian fluid.

Learn More: Physics

  • In a solid, the molecules are tightly packed and vibrate in place. In a liquid, the molecules slip past each other, allowing liquids to flow. But have you ever noticed some liquids flow faster than others? Think about water versus honey. What makes them flow differently?
  • You can find out by rubbing your hands together quickly. What do you feel? That heat is from friction, or force that holds back the movement of a sliding object. As the molecules in a liquid slide past each other, they generate friction, too. The more friction they generate, the slower they move. Why is that? The force of the friction is holding back their movement, effectively slowing them down.
  • The friction between molecules in a liquid is called viscosity. The more viscous a liquid, the more energy it takes for it to flow. High visocity liquids, like honey or corn syrup, also tend to be thicker.
  • So what about oobleck? Oobleck is called a non-Newtonian fluid because it breaks the rules of Newtonian viscosity. On Earth, they’ll always be subject to the laws of gravity and the laws of motion Newton described. But the viscosity of oobleck, or the interactions and friction between the molecules, changes based on force you apply to applied to it.

Did you make your own oobleck and perform any experiments with it? We’d love to see how it turned out! Snap a photo of you making, testing, or playing with your oobleck and submit it to our Science Showcase here or tag Orlando Science Center and use #OSCatHome on social media! You might be featured on our channels. 

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Find out when we release new resources by following us on social media!

 

Follow us on social media for even more science fun including fun facts, games, behind-the-scenes photos, and more!

 

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Support OSC At Home

In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!