Kid’s Guide to Electricity

We use electricity in many ways every day. When the power goes out, you notice it because the machines and devices that you rely on stop working. An electrical engineer is a person who helps to create and improve things that run on electricity. But exactly what is electricity, and how does it work?

What Is Electricity?

Electricity is a powerful force that we find in nature. It all starts with atoms, tiny things that make everything around us. Atoms contain protons and neutrons, which make up the center of each atom, and they also contain electrons, which are particles that move around the outside of the atom. The electrons are always moving and can jump from one atom to the next, and it’s those moving electrons that make up the electricity we use every day.

How Was Electricity Discovered?

A few different people played a role in the discovery of electricity, but the most famous one is Benjamin Franklin. In the 1700s, he performed many experiments to prove that lightning had an electrical charge and this electricity could be captured. One particular stormy evening, he decided to fly a kite with a metal key attached to the string. The key attracted electrons, which traveled into a special jar attached to the string. It was a turning point in electrical history, but harnessing that energy for use came from other inventors later on, such as Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb.

  • Ben Franklin: Check out this video from the History Channel of young children explaining who Ben Franklin was and why he was a key player in bringing electricity to us today.
  • Fun History of Electricity Facts: Try playing this little game while you learn about some historical figures who played a role in the discovery of electricity.
  • Ben Franklin and His Kite: You can learn about Ben Franklin and his kite experiment here.
  • How Electricity Began: The article teaches you a brief history of how we came to have power in our homes.

How Do We Get Electricity?

Electric companies use power stations that generate energy. The energy travels through power lines to a substation and then through more power lines to your home. Each house has an electrical meter. The electricity moves through the meter and into your home’s electrical panel to be sent throughout your house. The electric company can make electricity using energy from many different sources, including things like the sun and wind.

  • How Electricity Gets to Your Home: You can learn how electricity travels to your home to be used by you and your family here.
  • Power Sources: This website teaches about the different sources that provide us with power.
  • How Do We Make Electricity? This interactive presentation teaches about the different ways we can get electricity.
  • Using Electricity: If you want to learn more about electricity, try playing this fun game.
  • Wind Power: Here, you will find interesting facts about wind turbines and how they can generate electricity.
  • Electricity Facts: Read more about electricity in this quick fact list.
  • Voltage and Currents Explained: Find out what voltages and currents are and how they’re related to the power you use to run your TV, computer, or even a lamp.
  • Facts on Electricity – Find out more about electricity and how it works.
  • Solar Power: This short presentation can help you learn what solar power is and how it benefits us today.
  • Types of Lightbulbs: Did you know there is more than one kind of light bulb? This article shows you the different kinds of electric light bulbs we use.
  • Electric Eel Game: Try your hand at playing this game and learn about energy at the same time.

Electrical Safety

Electricity is very useful, but it can also be dangerous. People can get seriously hurt if they come into contact with an electrical charge, so it’s important that we learn how to use electricity properly. One thing we should always remember is to never touch a power line. A lot of volts of electricity travel through those lines. If a power line goes down, call the power company and let their engineer handle it: Never touch it yourself. Another good safety rule to remember is to keep electrical appliances and devices away from water, as the electricity can travel through the water and hurt someone.

  • Hidden Dangers: You can learn electrical safety while you identify dangerous situations in this Hidden Dangers game.
  • Electrical Safety Rules: Louie, the character from the Safe Electricity website, teaches safety rules to follow when you’re around electric power.
  • Private I. Plug: Watch Private I. Plug visit his grandma and help her to make her home safe from electrical hazards in this video.

Experiments and Fun Stuff

You might want to try some science projects to see for yourself how electricity works and what you can do with it. Even though electricity is dangerous, there are some experiments you can do that are safe, especially if a parent helps you.

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