Here are some general suggestions for extending the information presented in the Electric Universe format:
1. Make a Hall of Inventors display or bulletin board. Include biographies and/or simple experiments of key scientists in the field of electricity, thermodynamics, or engineering.
2. Start a classroom collection of switches and fuses. These could be stored from year to year in plastic lidded shoeboxes. Displayed in conjunction with correlating bulletin boards and center tables, the boxes will be a "magnet" for inquisitive students.
3. Make arrangements for representatives from your local utility to present a short assembly program on Safety Around Electricity, or ask for literature on the topic.
4. Arrange for the school maintenance person to visit your class to discuss how electricity is supplied, distributed, and controlled on your campus. Ask for a quick tour so that the class could view wiring, fuses, circuit breakers, ground wires, and meters.
5. Contact your local utility company. Draw or have students draw maps showing where electrical generators are located and approximately where transmission lines bring electricity to homes and businesses in your community.
6. Have students list 5 to 10 electrical appliances found in their homes. Older students may take their home lists and in a separate column, note each appliance's wattage. This is the number of watts usually found on tags attached to the appliance's cord, or on the appliance's back or bottom.
As a further extension, you may have students try to list ALL the electrical appliances in their homes, from lamps to shavers, and flashlights to freezers. Then, as a class, combine all the numbers from each student, divide by the number of students in your class and find the average number of appliances for the representative homes. The national average is said to be somewhere around 70!
Being sensitive to each classroom situation, you might just make a survey of your own classroom, or ask for permission for your class to visit the school secretary or reception office to count electrical "goodies."
7. Have students engage family members in helping to make simple diagrams or maps of their homes showing where fuse boxes or circuit breakers are and where outlets and switches in specific rooms are located.
One night, you might assign just the "kitchen," while the next night students might be mapping their family rooms or sleeping areas. Encourage students to ask family members how fuses are used or how circuit breakers are reset.
8. After your electrical safety discussions or presentations, challenge students to prepare poster, write skits, or compose poems or songs illustrating safety concepts. Encourage students to include safe ways to use extension cords, to change light bulbs, to reset circuit breakers, and to use electrical appliances. Include being safe outdoors around substations, padmount transformers, and transmission lines. Don't forget to include safety tips for students who are caught outside during electrical storms.
9. Ask your local utility or neighborhood lineman if you could borrow an electric meter for demonstration purposes. Familiarize yourself with the concept of the electric meter and its usefulness. Discuss the large "wheel" in the middle; this spins quickly to show that much power is being used by the household or slowly, if the opposite is true.
The dials underneath (4-5 smaller dials) are numbered 0 to 9. Notice how some of the dials read with the numbers clockwise and some counterclockwise. These dials record the power usage in certain time periods called "cycles." Most utilities have meter readers who visit homes or apartments to record the numbers on these dials. The dials are read from left to right, with the numbers recorded in that order. Some utility companies have meter readers who have hand-held computers where the information is stored.
Reading the meter is easy: when the needle on the dial is between 2 numbers, the smaller number is recorded. Electric utilities can calculate the kilowatt-hours (kWh) used by consumers and charge them accordingly for the service. Prices per kWh are usually regulated by a state's utility or public service commission.
As a reminder, a kilowatt-hour (kWh) is the amount of electricity needed to burn a 100-watt light bulb for 10 hours = 1000 watts.
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