What does “static” mean?

We continued our discussion about electricity today with an example of static electricity. Mrs. Forst joined morning meeting with a balloon stuck to her scarf. We asked her if she used tape or glue to make the balloon stick, but when she moved the balloon away it was clear that she had not used any sticking agents. This was the conversation that followed:

H.P. – It’s static!
Mrs. Pless – What is static?
A.H. –  It’s something that’s sticky.
Mrs. Pless – Is tape static?
Class – No.
Mrs. Pless – Tape is sticky.
J.J. – Not every sticky thing is static.
S.C. – Static sticks to some balloons but not all of them because some of them are balloons I’ve never heard of before.
T.O. –  Not everything is static because somethings stick but some do not. I have a rubber spider and it sticks to you.
J.W. – Static is like glue that sticks to the table.
Mrs. Forst – I’m going to bring around the balloon and I want you to tell me if you think its sticky. What do you think?
Class – Not sticky.
Our students were starting to think like scientists, but we hadn’t quite arrived at our hypothesis just yet. So we tried another experiment where Mrs. Forst tore up several pieces of tissue paper and put them on the floor. Then she put the balloon over top of the pieces and asked the students what happened to the paper. They of course responded that nothing happened. We decided to try the experiment again, but this time, Mrs. Forst rubbed her scarf all over the balloon. This time when she placed the balloon over the tissue paper pieces, the paper began to dance.
Our conversation continues:
A.R. –  It’s like a magnet!
Mrs. Forst – (wipes the balloon of the static charge) Now, watch the paper when I put the balloon over the paper, it isn’t moving. What do I need to do?
H.P. – Rub your scarf on it again.
J.W. – When you were rubbing the balloon with the scarf you tried to squeeze it and the paper was getting up to the balloon
A.J. – It sticks because you rubbed the scarf on the balloon and the paper was dancing.
S.B. – You know that balloons that are purple they always stick because the string is so deep that they make it like that.
S.C. –  Balloons can stick a little bit. Green ones can and purple ones can stick because you can wipe them with red scarves and make them stick.
A.H. –  If you get one hundred balloons it wont stick.
Although the conversation did not result in an answer about what static is or how it works, it got the little wheels in their minds turning. The curiosity fire is lit and we, as teachers, are working to stoke that fire. Next week, we will seek to find the answers to our many questions.

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