Make a Bird Fly with Static Electricity!

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Today’s experiment uses a few simple supplies to teach your child all about static electricity with a fun flying bird visual.

Static electricity is the result of a build-up of electric charge in an object. When a balloon is rubbed on your hair, it picks up electrons and becomes negatively charged. In this experiment, we make the bird’s wings (tissue paper) move by attracting it to the charged balloon.

Ready to fly? Let’s begin!

How to make the Flying Bird Static Electricity science experiment

Supplies you will need

For this experiment, you will need the following:

Supplies needed for the Flying Bird Static Electricity experiment

Before you start

Since we’re dealing with static electricity, just be mindful of shocks that may surprise your child.

Instructions

Here is how to do this experiment with your child:

Step 1: Draw an outline of a bird from construction paper 

Use your pencil to draw out a very simple bird outline on the construction paper color of your choice.

You could either cut out the drawing of the bird or leave it uncut; your choice!

Step 2: Cut out a pair of wings from the tissue paper

Place your tissue paper over the bird-outlined construction paper and use the drawing to trace the wings of your bird on the tissue paper.

Finish off the bird wings near the middle of the bird’s body and use your scissors to cut each wing.

Step 3: Glue wings to the body

Use your gluestick to make a line of glue near the middle of the bird outline. We want to put glue only near the middle so the wings have the chance to freely move.

Place the wing cut-outs on the construction paper.

Step 4: Inflate balloon and create static electricity

Inflate your balloon and rub it on your hair for at least 30 seconds to build up static electricity.

Step 5: Watch your bird flap its wings

Float your balloon over the bird’s wings and watch it try to fly!

The science behind the Flying Bird Static Electricity experiment

This experiment teaches:

  • Understanding static electricity
  • Hands-on experimentation
  • Creativity

How it works

This static electricity experiment involves rubbing a balloon on your hair to gain an excess of negatively charged electrons, creating a negative static charge.

The tissue paper, initially neutral, becomes attracted to the negatively charged balloon because opposite charges attract.

The tissue paper sticks to the balloon because the negative charge on the balloon induces a positive charge on the side of the tissue paper closest to it, creating an attractive force.

Understanding static electricity

This experiment introduces kids to the concept of static electricity, which is the buildup of electric charge on the surface of an object. It helps them understand that certain materials can become charged when rubbed together, like when we charge the balloon with our hair.

Children can learn about the triboelectric effect, which is the concept of generating static electricity through friction.

When our balloon is negatively charged and we hold it up to the tissue paper (with a neutral charge), protons rush to where the balloon is, causing our tissue paper to move.

Hands-on experimentation

Hands-on experiments are the best way for kids to learn and this experiment is one that they can play with over and over.

This experiment allows kids to actively participate and engage with scientific principles.

Creativity

Your child may want to try other materials, test different rubbing techniques, or even come up with their own variations of the experiment.

Let them!

It’s a great opportunity to build curiosity and creativity since they will have to pick out other materials or variations to work with through the experiment.

More static electricity experiments to try out with your child

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