Getting a buzz from electricity

5 November 2018

Over the past year, the Ogden Trust primary team has been focusing on electricity in the primary curriculum to support our P3L CPD programme and to design the latest Phizzi Electricity CPD course that is being delivered to our primary partnerships this academic year. Perhaps you have already taken part in your Phizzi Electricity CPD event?

After attending the Phizzi Electricity CPD day, Ogden partnership schools, will receive a box of electricity resources and our book of 10 electricity enquiries for primary schools.

Not in an Ogden primary partnership? Our Primary Physics Professional Learning courses (P3L) are available to all primary teachers. Our 2019 programme will be launched soon.

With our CPD programme, we have carefully planned for progression: encouraging schools to provide opportunities for KS1 children to begin to think about electricity by investigating electrical properties of materials; moving on to developing a better understanding of conductors and insulators in lower KS2 by building simple circuits and using them to solve real-life problems; and then becoming more quantitative in upper KS2 by carrying out enquiries to develop their understanding of electrical circuits and voltage.

Although the idea of static electricity is not included on the primary curriculum, it is a phenomenon that many young children are fascinated by. Electric shocks on an escalator and using balloons to make hair stand on end always encourage a sense of awe and wonder in young children as they explore the world around them. Year 1 children will enjoy investigating materials that are easily charged with static electricity and it provides a great opportunity for sorting and classifying using affordable and easily accessible materials.

As Year 1 children begin to learn how their observations in science can be developed by measuring, it would be a fantastic opportunity to introduce them to William Gilbert (Queen Elizabeth I’s doctor) who was fascinated by static electricity. He built the first instrument for measuring static electricity – the electroscope. Our Phizzi Practical resource How to make a simple electroscope explains the electroscope’s history and describes how you can make a simple version that you can use to compare statically charged materials in the classroom.

By providing opportunities for Year 2 pupils to identify materials which conduct electricity, you can create the perfect opportunity to begin to talk about electrical safety with children. This will be the first opportunity for children to learn about electrical circuits, so perhaps you could develop their understanding of simple circuits and the electrical properties of materials by including a design and technology project to make a scribblebot? Children can justify their choice of materials in their design using their newly acquired scientific knowledge, they can develop their evaluation skills by reflecting on the success of their robot design and the finished product can help to create and inspire some incredible art work.

As KS2 children develop their understanding of circuits by thinking more about the function of different components and analysing their behaviour it can be valuable to take a closer look at batteries. We have created two Phizzi Practical resources to help with this: Our coin battery resource explores the work of Michael Faraday and helps children develop a better understanding of what happens inside batteries; Fruity batteries explains how children can make cells and batteries to light an LED and can be developed into a pattern seeking enquiry.


With some of our Ogden primary partnerships, a lack of learning linked to how scientific ideas have changed over time was identified when they were moderating their science books. We thought it would be useful to increase our focus on this area of working scientifically and have created a resource which teachers can use to help with planning opportunities to develop these skills: working scientifically - ideas over time.

We have also created a collection of resources to help develop children’s appreciation about how our ideas about science have change over time and these have proved very effective in the classroom. There are two resources linked to timelines – Electricity till roll timeline and a Timeline card sort game on electrical inventions which provide some very active learning opportunities to help children understand how electricity has changed our lives. For older children we have developed a set of Research Cards that will provide opportunities for them to develop their research skills at the same time as developing an awareness of the work of some of the phenomenal physicists who have helped to develop our understanding of electricity.

We would love to hear about how these resources have worked in your classroom. Please get in touch to share your experience and photos of resources in action.
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