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FL5 Teacher Page: Electrostatic Charges

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Florida Science Standards

SC.5.P.10.3: Investigate and explain that an electrically-charged object can attract an uncharged object and can either attract or repel another charged object without any contact between the objects.

Connecting to Other Standards

It is much easier to understand electrostatic charges if you understand atoms. I highly recommend covering SC.5.P.8.4 with your students before you start on this standard.

Key Concepts:

  • An object that has a balanced number of protons and electrons that are distributed equally will have a neutral charge.
  • An object that has more electrons than protons will have a negative charge.
  • An object that has fewer electrons than protons will have a positive charge.
  • An object that has its electrons concentrated on one side will have a negative charge on that side, and a positive charge on the opposite side.
  • Objects that have like charges will repel each other.
  • Objects that have opposite charges will attract each other.


  • Electron: A negatively charged atomic particle.
  • Proton: A positively charged atomic particle
  • Attract: Pull towards.
  • Repel: Push away.
  • Induction: Producing a charge on a neutrally charged object by bringing a charged object near it.

Misconception Alert:

Uncharged objects: In spite of what the standard says, an uncharged object will not be attracted or repelled from a charged object. Instead, the charged object will cause the uncharged object to become charged, with a positive charge on one side and a negative charge on the other side. This process is called induction.

Covering the Basics:

To give your students a basic understanding of this topic, do the following.

  1. A great way to introduce this unit is with part 1 of the Challenge: Paper, Coin activity. Once your students have done the Static Charges activity, they should immediately see how to solve this challenge by using induction.
  2. Do the Static Charges activity with your students. Help them see that as the balloon comes near the bits of uncharged paper, the paper becomes charged. The positive end of the paper will stick to the negatively charged balloon, and the negative end of the paper will stick out away from the balloon, often attracting the positive end of another piece of paper.
    • balloons
    • paper
    • (maybe) a hair drier
  3. Troubleshooting: Humidity is the number one problem that you will run into when working with electrostatic charges. Keep a hair drier close by to keep everything very dry during these activities.
  4. Add more depth to the topic by using the following:
    • Use the Versorium to detect even very small electrostatic charges.
    • Show that electrostatic charges work with liquids by using the Electrostatics and Water activity.
    • Another example of electrostatic induction is the Sorting Salt and Pepper activity. This also ties in with SC.5.P.8.3 and illustrates how electrostatic induction can be useful.

Nature of Science Potential

Fun Facts

Supporting Standards from Previous Grades

SC.3.P.10.1 Observe and describe some basic forms of energy, including light, heat, sound, electrical, and the energy of motion.
SC.4.P.10.1 Observe and describe some basic forms of energy, including light, heat, sound, electrical, and the energy of motion.
SC.4.P.10.2 Investigate and describe that energy has the ability to cause motion or create change.

If you need help with science questions, ways to explain or demonstrate concepts, or have a suggestion for an activity, please email me.

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