Electricity and Engineering Grades 4-6

Learning about electricity, renewable energy and circuits is much more fun when you work together to build your own power grid and electrify an entire city. In this lesson, students will have the opportunity to create circuits and then work as a team to design and build a beautifully lit city block.


one GOBOX pro with LED light kits (for class of up to 30 students) 

recycled cardboard for buildings (or opt for 1 cardboard refill per group with GOBOX PRO)

2 AAA batteries per group 


one large sheet of paper, tarp, table cloth or other sheet good to be used as city floorplan 

optional materials- 

pipe cleaners 


assorted recycled materials from the home

day 1 lesson and activity- learning about electricity and the power grid

What is electricity?

Electricity is a type of energy that can flow from one thing to another. It is a huge part of your everyday life. For starters, it keeps your home and school warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It is used to make lots of things in your home work like lights, the microwave and your hair dryer. Electricity is made from energy stored in materials and other natural sources. Some materials that store energy include coal, natural gas, nuclear and oil. Energy from renewable (or reusable) environmental sources includes solar, wind and falling water.Electricity is made, or converted from burning materials like coal, natural gas, and oil or from collecting power from other environmental sources like solar, wind and falling water.  Here is a nice opportunity to discuss as a group what sources of electricity are used in your own community. Examples may include electric cars, gas powered cars, windmills or solar panels that are along highways or dams if there are any in your area. 

Where does electricity come from? 

Yes, it comes from a socket in the wall. But that’s not where it really comes from. Let's find out how it gets to your home to light up your room and run other things in your home.It starts with an energy source like wind and solar power. This energy is converted into electricity which means it can now flow along wires and ultimately travel to your home. Lets's follow the pathway from beginning to your home.

 1. Let’s start with an energy source like solar power. This energy is converted into electricity by the solar panels like the ones you see on roofs. Once the energy is made into electricity, it can flow along metal wires. Any material that electricity can flow through is called a conductor. So the solar panel collects solar power and converts it to electricity, now travels along conductive wires from one place to another. When electricity has to travel a very long distance, it needs to be very strong or high voltage

2. A transformer can make electricity stronger or weaker. So after electricity is made from solar or wind power, a transformer collects it and makes it stronger. That high voltage electricity is strong enough to travel long distances. It travels along all of those wires on electric poles through your town. (or these wires can be buried). 

3. The electricity eventually reaches your street where the voltage way to strong for a house. The power has to be reduced or made weaker. Every street or property has its own transformer. While the first transformer made the electricity high voltage, this transformer now makes the power lower voltage. From there it travels through distribution lines into your home and into your wall. The holes in the wall socket connect to the wires that go from the street transformer into your home, through your wall and into the back of the socket in your wall. Now you’re plugged-in! Even though it is less strong or lower voltage, this is still very dangerous and should never be touched!!! 

4.  Insulators - Have you ever noticed that all electrical wires in your home are covered in plastic/rubber?  Metal is a conductor, electricity can flow through it. Plastic is called an insulator, electricity cannot flow through it. So when you touch the plastic covered wire you will not get a shock. If you were to put uncovered metal into a socket, well you would get electrocuted! Sockets are VERY dangerous and can cause death. That’s why all sockets in a home should be covered with protectors.  


Use the image below as a guide to draw your own version of how electricity gets to your home

day 1 homework: review what we learned

1. create a collage from magazine, internet images or drawn of 5 sources of electricity you use in your home or community

2. learn these vocabulary words - electricity, transformer, voltage, circuit, conductor, battery, load 

led lights and electric circuit images for grades 4-6 learning electricity and LED lights

day 2 lesson: the simple electrical circuit

We know you are excited to power up your model. We are too. But first we need to review  a few things about electricity so you hook it up right. So we’ll go over the basics.Electricity, as you know is a form of energy. It  can flow like through conductive wires like we learned yesterday or it can either be stored in one place like in a battery. When it stays in one place, it is called static electricity and when it flows it is called a current (sort of like water flowing in a river).For this activity, you will be making the electricity flow from the battery to the thing that you want to power up (a light) and then back to the battery. You will be creating a loop. Lets go over all of the parts of this loop, which is also called a circuit

battery - energy source 

conductors - materials that can carry the electricity from one place to another. In your kit, this is a wire. Metals are good conductors of electricity. Plastic, wood and rubber are not. They are called insulators. 

Load = this is something that changes electric energy to another form of energy, like light, heat, sound or movement. Examples of loads would be a bulb (light), a motor (movement), a buzzer (sound) or an oven (heat). 

Now just one really important thing before we get started. We will be using a special kind of light called an LED light.  LED lights are a bit more complex. They are like a one way street, they only work when hooked up to the battery in one direction. Here’s how you have to do it.

FUN FACT: LED light bulbs are a new kind of light.  They are better for the environment because they don’t get hot. Some other kinds of bulbs get hot and give off heat. That may be okay if your cold and want the room to get hot but if you really only want light, then some of the electricity is wasted on heat rather than light. Wasting electricity is bad for the environment. Other nice things about LED lights is that they work on very low voltage (so you can use then safely) and because they don't get hot, they are not likely to cause a fire - that is why most Christmas lights are now LED.  

day 2 activity: create a simple circuit by lighting a structure

1. Divide students into 10 groups. Each group will be responsible for one building within the community. At least 2 groups should make homes and two should create towers that will ultimately become the power grids for the city. Other choices include but are not limited to 

• school

• hospital

• stores

• police station

2. Have groups each practice creating a circuit with one LED light. Students should construct their building out of 3DuxDesign connectors and cardboard forms. They should determine where the light will be placed, remove that cardboard piece, poke small hole through cardboard with pencil and thread LED light through the hole. Have students split the + (longer) and - wires and run a small piece of electrical tape to the end of the cardboard piece. Students should test their light. They should now take some time to decorate their structure and then reconstruct it. 

day 2 homework: Urban design and planning 

1. review today's vocabulary
2. Knowing the buildings that were chosen by each group. Draw out how you think the city should be laid out. In your diagram, be sure to include the transformer stations, electrical lines and buildings. You can draw transformers on your diagram as well as the original power source. 

day 3 discussion: review the plans

Now is each student's chance to share plans within their own group. 

Each group should pick their favorite plans and then present them to the class. The class as a whole should choose the best design for their city. 

day 3 activity:  construct the city

1. lay out your city floor (sheet, plastic table cover, paper etc) and either pencil in the city plans or use labeled post-its.
2. place buildings in appropriate locations 
3. create the electrical grid starting from the transformer towers and working outward. There are several ways to use the electrical conductive tape and alligator clips but students should focus on the most efficient way to lay to the city and use the materials given. They can go from one light to another in parallel but the AAA batteries will likely not hav enough voltage to run multiple LED lights in series. 

day 3 homework: research energy sources

Pick one source of energy and research it. In 2-3 paragraphs answer these questions. Is it renewable or non-renewable? How is it converted into electricity? Give an example of this electricity form in use. Add photos or drawing if desired.

standards reviewed

3-5-ETS1-1Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost. 

3-5-ETS1-2Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. How to light the house 

3-5-ETS1-3Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved. Create theset up 

MS-ETS1-1Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions

ESS3.A:  Natural Resources• Energy and fuels that humans use are derived from natural sources, and their use affects the environment in multiple ways. Some resources are renewable over time, and others are not. (4-ESS3-1)

ETS1.A:  Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems• Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints). The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution(criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account. Most scientists and engineers work in teams. (secondary to 4-PS3-4)

Science Is a Human Endeavor• Science affects everyday life. (4-PS3-4) 

Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment. 4-ESS3-1 
Clarification Statement and Assessment BoundaryMake observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents. 4-PS3-2 
Clarification Statement and Assessment BoundaryApply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another. 4-PS3-4 
Ask questions that can be investigated and predict reasonable outcomes based on patterns such as cause and effect relationships. (4-PS3-3) 
Make observations to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence for an explanation of a phenomenon or test a design solution. (4-PS3-2)

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stem with friends remote playdates

3DuxDesign wants to help keep kids connected. let us host a STEM With Friends Remote Playdate. Send each friend a kit and we will schedule a free design/build activity for you  and 5-10 of your besties  

Contact marci@3duxdesign.com for details

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