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Activity: Who’s Who in Electricity?

Grade Level:
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Objective: Students connect the contributions of scientists in the field of electricity to the concepts learned in class.

Time: One class period for research, one class period for the rest of the project

Materials: One sheet of computer paper per student, scissors, map pencils, computer access, or research materials

Vocabulary: scientist, contribution

Background Information:

All students know about the contributions of Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin to the study of electricity. What about the contributions of Lewis Howard Latimer? Students use watt, volt, and amp when studying electricity, but do not know about the contributions of James Watt, Alessandro Volta and André-Marie Ampere. This lesson will allow your students to do some further research into the people that contributed to the field of electricity.

Setting the Stage:

Gather some biographies of people you plan to study and find pictures of these scientists. Show the students a picture of Benjamin Franklin and ask the students who it is and what his contribution to science is. Do this again with Thomas Edison. Then continue with some of the more obscure people on the list. When the students cannot tell you who it is, or what he/she contributed, do not tell them the answer. Tell them, “That is what we are going to find out today.”

Activity 1: Who’s Who Research

Research the people that were instrumental in discovering and refining electricity. Using books, websites, and encyclopedias, find out the who, what, when and where of some of these scientists. If you are unable to use a computer lab or a library for your research, print the biographies and extra pictures for your students prior to class. Some of the information you may want your students to find in their research may include: date of birth, place of birth, date of death, cause of death, education, obstacles in receiving an education, economic background, physical or learning abilities, prejudice or persecution due to gender, religion, race, or philosophical beliefs, major contributions, awards won, other interesting facts or stories.

The following is a list of scientists who were instrumental in the field of electricity:

  • André-Marie Ampere
  • Amadeo Avogadro
  • Niels Bohr
  • Charles de Coulomb
  • Thomas Edison
  • Michael Faraday
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • William Gilbert
  • Joseph Henry
  • Heinrich Hertz
  • James Joule
  • Lewis Howard Latimer
  • James Clerk Maxwell
  • Samuel Finley Morse
  • Leopold Nobili
  • Hans Christian Oersted
  • Georg Ohm
  • Charles Parson
  • Gaston Plante’
  • Joseph Priestly
  • Charles Steinmetz
  • Sir Joseph Wilson Swan
  • Nikola Tesla
  • Joseph Johnson Thomas
  • Robert Van De Graff
  • Alessandro Volta
  • James Watt

Activity 2: Who’s Who Foldables

Hold a sheet of computer paper horizontally (landscape); fold both of the sides in so they meet in the center (shutter fold). Crease these folds. Fold the top half down to the bottom, crease the fold, then unfold. Cut the crease in the center of the right and left flaps to the vertical crease. You now have a 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch sheet of paper with four flaps.

Label the flaps WhoWhatWhen and Where. Have students find or draw pictures to place on the front of these flaps. Information about the scientists should be placed under the appropriate flap.

Activity 3: Timeline

Make a timeline starting with the earliest birth date of one of the scientists and go through to the present. Hang the timeline all the way across a wall in your room. Have the students place their project on the wall with a string connecting it to the approximate date of their scientist. As the student places his or her project, have them tell the class the name and major contribution of their scientist.


After all students have placed their projects on the timeline, ask the students if they see any patterns. Do they notice the clustering in one small timeframe of many of these discoveries? Why is that so?

Many of these scientists have had something named after them (volt, watt, amp). What would the students want named after them and what would it be called?

Extensions: Map Them

Using a world map, have the students place a pin in the country of origin of each scientist. Notice the clustering. Have the students discuss why that clustering may have occurred. What is going on in the world at the time? Are other discoveries occurring in other areas of the world?

Adapted from: Dinah Zike’s Big Book of Projects


SCI.3.3C, SCI.4.3C, SCI.5.3C, SCI.5.3C, SCI.6.3D, SCI.7.3D, SCI.8.3D

RE.6.5A, RE.7.5A, RE.8.5A

SS.3.17C, SS.4.21B, SS.5.24B, SS.3.17E, SS.4.21C, SS.5.24C, SS.4.20B, SS.3.16A, SS.4.20A, SS.5.23A, SS.5.23B, SS.4.20B, SS.5.23C, SS.6.20A, SS.7.20C, SS.8.27B, SS.6.21C, SS.7.21C, SS.8.29C

ELA.3.13A, ELA.4.11A, ELA.5.11A, ELA.3.13B, ELA.4.11B, ELA.5.11B, ELA.5.11E, ELA.6.10A, ELA.7.10A, ELA.8.10A, ELA.6.10B, ELA.7.10B, ELA.8.10B

Watt Watchers of Texas is a Partner Program of Smart Energy Education.
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