Electric Charge Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 Electric Charges in Atoms
  • 1:02 Transfer Process
  • 1:55 Ions and Magnets
  • 2:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tiffany Hightower

Tiffany is a certified elementary school teacher. She has a B.A. in English, education certification and a master's degree in education from Central Michigan University.

Have you ever experienced a tiny shock or clothes sticking together? This is related to the electric charge in parts of atoms. In this lesson, you will learn about atoms, electric charges and static electricity.

Electric Charges in Atoms

Have you ever taken clothes out of the dryer? You likely noticed that some of the clothes were sticking together, such as a sock sticking to a sweater. What causes that to happen? Well, there's a scientific reason for this, which is known as static electricity. Let's take a closer look at atoms, electric charges and static electricity.

Atoms are the microscopic building blocks of all matter. Atoms have even tinier particles inside of them called protons, neutrons and electrons. Protons are located in the nucleus of an atom, and electrons float around the nucleus in a path that is similar to an orbit.

Protons and electrons are the only two parts of the atom with an electric charge. An electric charge is a trait or property that comes from electromagnetic forces and fields. Protons have a positive charge. Electrons have a negative charge. Usually atoms have the same number of protons and electrons, which gives the atom a neutral charge. However, electrons can transfer from atoms in one form of matter to other atoms.

Transfer Process

Think about when your hair has static electricity and stands up after you remove a knit hat from your head. The static electricity happens because the electrons from the atoms of your hair were transferred to become electrons in the atoms of your hat.

When an electron leaves an atom in your hair, the hair atom will have more protons than electrons. When the atom has more protons, the atom changes from having a neutral charge to having a positive charge.

At the same time, when that electron transfers from the hair atom to the hat atom, it causes the hat atom to have more electrons than protons. Now the hat atom has a negative charge.

When an atom loses or gains electrons, it's called an ion. Atoms with more positively charged protons than electrons are called positive ions. Atoms with more negatively charged electrons than protons are called negative ions. Now let's see how the interaction between the hair ions and hat ions causes your hair to stand up.

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