Lesson 10: Static

Salt & Pepper Static

Activity Developed by the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History

Description/Learning goals:

How do various objects react differently to the same cause?

Participants will experiment with static electricity.

Participants will practice making


  • Balloon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Placemat

Activity Instructions:

  1. How strong is static electricity? Place some salt and pepper together on a placemat or the table. Which do you think you’ll be able to pick up with only static electricity? Do you think salt or pepper is heavier?
  2. Blow up a balloon and rub it against your hair or your clothes.
  3. Hold it above the salt and pepper mixture. Which does it pick up?
  4. Experiment with other small items- are you able to pick up anything else with static electricity? Try with pieces of paper, your hair, etc.

Science Concepts:

There are many levels of static electricity- Lightning is a big bright example in the night sky we can see, but static electricity is happening even in the day when we can’t see the light. Bees and flowers have opposite static charges, which helps attract the bee to the flower, and help the pollen cling to the bee.

Geckos have tiny hairs on the bottom of their feet that help them to stick to walls. This connection is made stronger by static electricity

Static electricity happens all the time! We can see it easily in the dark, but it’s still happening when it’s light, there’s just not enough contrast for our eyes to detect it.

Notice when there is more static electricity? During the winter we get shocked more often because the air is drier; water molecules in the air surround things and prevent build-up of charge.

Early Learning 101:

Scientific Skills and Method: The skills to observe and collect information and use it to ask questions, predict, explain, and draw conclusions

Follow Up: