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Geo-Electric Field Science: Using Topographic Maps and Clay Models to Teach Electric Field and Potential
written by Rebecca Vieyra
In this activity for high school physics, students build a physical model to apply and extend their knowledge of electric fields and potential. It engages learners in analogical reasoning, a type of thinking that can generate deeper understanding of abstract concepts. Students will use topographic maps to create clay models with contour lines, which will serve to represent electric potential. Through the analogy of topographic map/equipotential, learners can be expected to gain insight into electric field patterns and variables that influence strength of field. An extension activity includes a video of electric field lines using potassium permanganate.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Modeling
- Pedagogy
= Heuristics
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electric Fields and Potential
= Electric Field
Other Sciences
- Geoscience
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Problem/Problem Set
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Access Rights:
Available by subscription
Resource is available to paid members of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).
This material is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license.
Rights Holder:
American Association of Physics Teachers
Keywords:
electric field lines, equipotential
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created June 30, 2017 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
February 26, 2018 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
May 4, 2017
Other Collections:

Next Generation Science Standards

Energy (HS-PS3)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
• Develop and use a model of two objects interacting through electric or magnetic fields to illustrate the forces between objects and the changes in energy of the objects due to the interaction. (HS-PS3-5)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Types of Interactions (PS2.B)
• Forces at a distance are explained by fields (gravitational, electric, and magnetic) permeating space that can transfer energy through space. Magnets or electric currents cause magnetic fields; electric charges or changing magnetic fields cause electric fields. (9-12)
Definitions of Energy (PS3.A)
• These relationships are better understood at the microscopic scale, at which all of the different manifestations of energy can be modeled as a combination of energy associated with the motion of particles and energy associated with the configuration (relative position of the particles). In some cases the relative position energy can be thought of as stored in fields (which mediate interactions between particles). This last concept includes radiation, a phenomenon in which energy stored in fields moves across space. (9-12)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Patterns (K-12)
• Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena. (9-12)
Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems (1-12)
• Science assumes that objects and events in natural systems occur in consistent patterns that are understandable through measurement and observation. (6-8)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
• Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)
• Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution. (9-12)
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (K-12)
• Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. (9-12)
• Construct an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students' own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future. (9-12)
Developing and Using Models (K-12)
• Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)
• Use a model to provide mechanistic accounts of phenomena. (9-12)

NGSS Nature of Science Standards (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
• Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (K-12)
• Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. (9-12)
Developing and Using Models (K-12)
• Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)
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AIP Format
R. Vieyra, , 2017, WWW Document, (https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14422&DocID=4700).
AJP/PRST-PER
R. Vieyra, Geo-Electric Field Science: Using Topographic Maps and Clay Models to Teach Electric Field and Potential, 2017, <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14422&DocID=4700>.
APA Format
Vieyra, R. (2017). Geo-Electric Field Science: Using Topographic Maps and Clay Models to Teach Electric Field and Potential. Retrieved March 31, 2023, from https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14422&DocID=4700
Chicago Format
Vieyra, Rebecca. "Geo-Electric Field Science: Using Topographic Maps and Clay Models to Teach Electric Field and Potential." 2017. https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14422&DocID=4700 (accessed 31 March 2023).
MLA Format
Vieyra, Rebecca. Geo-Electric Field Science: Using Topographic Maps and Clay Models to Teach Electric Field and Potential. 2017. 31 Mar. 2023 <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14422&DocID=4700>.
BibTeX Export Format
@techreport{ Author = "Rebecca Vieyra", Title = {Geo-Electric Field Science: Using Topographic Maps and Clay Models to Teach Electric Field and Potential}, Month = {May}, Year = {2017} }
Refer Export Format

%A Rebecca Vieyra %T Geo-Electric Field Science: Using Topographic Maps and Clay Models to Teach Electric Field and Potential %D May 4, 2017 %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14422&DocID=4700 %O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Report %A Vieyra, Rebecca %D May 4, 2017 %T Geo-Electric Field Science: Using Topographic Maps and Clay Models to Teach Electric Field and Potential %8 May 4, 2017 %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14422&DocID=4700

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