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What uses electricity?

How does this align with my curriculum?

Take a tour of different rooms in your home. Which items in each room use electricity? How do you know they use electricity?

What You Need

  • Various electrical devices (e.g., overhead lights, lamps, television, microwave, toaster, radio, hair dryer, computer, mobile phone, tablet, fan, etc.)

Safety First!

Never encourage children to plug or unplug electrical devices on their own.

What To Do

Take a tour of different rooms in your home. Which items in each room use electricity? How do you know they use electricity?

What’s happening?

Electricity is a form of energy that can be transformed into other forms of energy, like light and heat. Electrical energy is generated (or made) by different means. It can be generated from the power of the sun (solar energy), from the power of the wind (wind energy), by burning fossil fuels (coal and natural gas) or from falling water (hydroelectricity). It can even be generated from nuclear energy (the energy released from splitting the nucleus of atoms). Once generated, electricity travels through wires to buildings to power your home’s heat, light and electrical devices.

For electrical devices to work, they must be connected to a source of electrical energy. Most often the connection is made through a plug into an electrical wall outlet. Some devices, such as overhead lights, are wired directly to the power source coming into the building and are most often controlled by switches.

What’s happening?

Electricity is a form of energy that can be transformed into other forms of energy, like light and heat. Electrical energy is generated (or made) by different means. It can be generated from the power of the sun (solar energy), from the power of the wind (wind energy), by burning fossil fuels (coal and natural gas) or from falling water (hydroelectricity). It can even be generated from nuclear energy (the energy released from splitting the nucleus of atoms). Once generated, electricity travels through wires to buildings to power your home’s heat, light and electrical devices.

For electrical devices to work, they must be connected to a source of electrical energy. Most often the connection is made through a plug into an electrical wall outlet. Some devices, such as overhead lights, are wired directly to the power source coming into the building and are most often controlled by switches.

Why does it matter?

We use electricity for many purposes every day, from cooking our food and lighting our homes to providing us with entertainment such as television or computer games. The removal of electricity can impact people’s lives because so many things in our world today need electricity in order to function. The lives of people who do not or did not have electricity are very different from ours. Electrical appliances and tools can make many tasks and types of work easier, but making electricity can also be costly. In addition, pollution can be created in the process of generating electricity.

Why does it matter?

We use electricity for many purposes every day, from cooking our food and lighting our homes to providing us with entertainment such as television or computer games. The removal of electricity can impact people’s lives because so many things in our world today need electricity in order to function. The lives of people who do not or did not have electricity are very different from ours. Electrical appliances and tools can make many tasks and types of work easier, but making electricity can also be costly. In addition, pollution can be created in the process of generating electricity.

Investigate further

  • Go without using any electrical devices for a period of time (a minimum of 30 minutes). How did it feel without these devices? Did you miss anything? What did you miss the most?
  • Count the number of electrical outlets, appliances and gadgets in your home. Does your house have enough outlets for all the electric appliances you own?
  • Take an outside walk around your house. Can you see where the electricity comes into your house? Clue: Look for a wire attached to the roof that goes out to a pole on the side of the street. In some communities, the electrical wires may be buried underground and you will not be able to see them.
  • Think about what it would be like to live without electricity. What things would you have to do without? How would your life and that of your family change? What good things could come from not having electricity?

For more information on this topic check out these Let's Talk Science resources:

  • How can I move water with just a comb? (Hands-on Activities) - Have you ever experienced static electricity? Like when you pull a wool sweater over your head in the winter? See what else static electricity can do in this hands-on activity.

Investigate further

  • Go without using any electrical devices for a period of time (a minimum of 30 minutes). How did it feel without these devices? Did you miss anything? What did you miss the most?
  • Count the number of electrical outlets, appliances and gadgets in your home. Does your house have enough outlets for all the electric appliances you own?
  • Take an outside walk around your house. Can you see where the electricity comes into your house? Clue: Look for a wire attached to the roof that goes out to a pole on the side of the street. In some communities, the electrical wires may be buried underground and you will not be able to see them.
  • Think about what it would be like to live without electricity. What things would you have to do without? How would your life and that of your family change? What good things could come from not having electricity?

For more information on this topic check out these Let's Talk Science resources:

  • How can I move water with just a comb? (Hands-on Activities) - Have you ever experienced static electricity? Like when you pull a wool sweater over your head in the winter? See what else static electricity can do in this hands-on activity.

Discovery