Sunday, December 13, 2015

Can You Make A Flashlight?

One of my favorite activities to do while teaching electricity is to have kids make a flashlight from "junk". I used to use KitKat bars because they were wrapped in foil and it was a perfect size. I've experimented with a few different candies and gum wrappers over the years. This year, I used Rolos. I used three in each bag, but I'd use six next time. The other things are just odds-n-ends and of no real importance.

Some possible items to use:

 a piece of cloth
 popsicle stick
 rubber band
 a piece of yarn
 rubber bracelet
 *paper clip

*I've tried to avoid using anything metal because I wanted the kids to use the tin foil, but this year I added a paper clip because I wasn't sure if the Rolos would provide enough foil. Next time, I think I'll add in a small paperclip instead of a large one.

Other supplies:

 one D cell battery 
 light bulb
 candy w/foil

**One of the first questions you'll hear is, "Can we eat the candy?" I tell them, "No" because we don't eat in science. Afterward, I let them eat their candy if they want to.

The Activity:

Give the kids a bag full of supplies and set the stage. I just make up a story and each year it's been a little different. This year, I made up a story about how Pirates captured my students along with their little brother/sister (neighbor, kindergarten kid) and were holding them in a cave. The Pirates assigned to guard them were a little ways down the hill from the cave entrance. This was their chance to escape! It was soon going to be dark. They needed a flashlight! The Pirates would be returning any time. Can they rescue their little brother or sister? In their pockets, they find a bunch of "stuff." Can they be creative and think of new uses for what they have? (The details of the story are not that important. It's how you tell the story that is more important.) Build up the suspense!

Once you've set the stage, give them a time limit. I play the Mission Impossible music (longer version), and they get two times through the music. Start the music and play it loudly. It builds up the intensity. Part way into the activity, I turn off one of the classroom lights to represent it getting later in the day. Towards the end of the music, I tell them that they can hear voices. The Pirates are returning!

If they figure out how to make the light bulb light up, they must show me but not reveal their secrets to someone else.

I've used this activity as an introduction to electricity and as a formative evaluation towards the end of a unit. This year, we're in the middle of our studies. They had some background information but still had to think and experiment.

I don't know who developed the original idea because I've done this activity for many, many years. I added in the story and music to the set-up. To me, building the suspense, giving the kids a time limit to "survive", and playing music makes the activity much more fun. After the music ends and all classroom lights are off (representing night time), I have the kids that figured it out, give a clue to the other kids. Everyone learns how to make a flashlight (complete circuit) and has success! They also learn that there are several different solutions which is something that I try to reinforce.

If you come up with a great story idea or tweak to the activity, I'd love to hear!


  1. Sandy,
    Love the way you build the excitement, make learning fun, and have students help one another. Would love to visit your classroom!! Thanks for sharing:)

  2. Can I use any other tape and also use four battery of 1.5 voltage? to make other flashlight?