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published by the PhET
written by Dorina Kosztin
This is a student guide created by the PhET team specifically for use with the simulation Balloons and Static Electricity. It gives step-by-step directions for simulation set-up and offers open-ended questions to help students explore the interactions between charged objects and charged/neutral objects. It is appropriate for middle school and 9th grade physical science courses.

Editor's Note: We suggest letting students play with this simulation prior to doing a static electricity experiment. Its design should help students build concepts in a way that helps prevent misconception about charge interaction.

This item is part of a larger collection of simulations developed by the Physics Education Technology project (PhET). The simulations are animated, interactive, and game-like environments.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electrostatics
= Charge
- High School
- Middle School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Interactive Simulation
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Student Guide
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- Assessment
- New teachers
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Free access
© 2005 University of Colorado at Boulder.
Additional information is available.
attraction, charge, charge interaction, electric charge, electrostatics, electrostatics simulation, repulsion, static electricity
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created January 23, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
November 25, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 3, 2009

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4G. Forces of Nature
  • 6-8: 4G/M5. A charged object can be charged in one of two ways, which we call either positively charged or negatively charged. Two objects that are charged in the same manner exert a force of repulsion on each other, while oppositely charged objects exert a force of attraction on each other.
  • 9-12: 4G/H2a. Electric forces acting within and between atoms are vastly stronger than the gravitational forces acting between the atoms. At larger scales, gravitational forces accumulate to produce a large and noticeable effect, whereas electric forces tend to cancel each other out.
  • 9-12: 4G/H3. Most materials have equal numbers of protons and electrons and are therefore electrically neutral. In most cases, a material acquires a negative charge by gaining electrons and acquires a positive charge by losing electrons. Even a tiny imbalance in the number of protons and electrons in an object can produce noticeable electric forces on other objects.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (1993 Version)


D. The Structure of Matter
  • 4D (9-12) #1.  Atoms are made of a positive nucleus surrounded by negative electrons. An atom's electron configuration, particularly the outermost electrons, determines how the atom can interact with other atoms. Atoms form bonds to other atoms by transferring or sharing electrons.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: "Static" Electricity
Unit Title: Charge Interaction

This printable student guide was developed specifically for use with the PhET simulation "Balloons and Static Electricity". It gives explicit directions for set-up, plus open-ended questions to help kids explore charge interactions. See the item directly above for a link to the simulation, which must be open in a browser to complete this activity.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
D. Kosztin, (PhET, Boulder, 2005), WWW Document, (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3313).
D. Kosztin, PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Exploring Electric Charges (PhET, Boulder, 2005), <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3313>.
APA Format
Kosztin, D. (2009, March 3). PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Exploring Electric Charges. Retrieved May 22, 2024, from PhET: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3313
Chicago Format
Kosztin, Dorina. PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Exploring Electric Charges. Boulder: PhET, March 3, 2009. https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3313 (accessed 22 May 2024).
MLA Format
Kosztin, Dorina. PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Exploring Electric Charges. Boulder: PhET, 2005. 3 Mar. 2009. 22 May 2024 <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3313>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Dorina Kosztin", Title = {PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Exploring Electric Charges}, Publisher = {PhET}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {22 May 2024}, Month = {March 3, 2009}, Year = {2005} }
Refer Export Format

%A Dorina Kosztin %T PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Exploring Electric Charges %D March 3, 2009 %I PhET %C Boulder %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3313 %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %A Kosztin, Dorina %D March 3, 2009 %T PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Exploring Electric Charges %I PhET %V 2024 %N 22 May 2024 %8 March 3, 2009 %9 text/html %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3313

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PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Exploring Electric Charges:

Is Part Of PhET Simulation: Balloons and Static Electricity

A link to the PhET simulation Balloons and Static Electricity, which this student guide was specifically developed to accompany.

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