Electrostatic Force: Making Salt and Pepper Dance

Grade Levels: 3 - 5


  • Students will observe, infer, predict, experiment, formulate hypotheses, and identify and control variables.


  • Balloon
  • Wool cloth
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Inflate the balloon and tie the end.
  2. Sprinkle a small amount of salt and pepper on a sheet of paper or on your desk top.
  3. Rub the balloon with the cloth.
  4. Bring the balloon within about an inch or two (2-5 cm) of the salt and pepper.
  5. Observe for a minute or two. You will need to caution your students to watch very carefully. Otherwise they will probably not notice that the same grains of salt and pepper are attracted to the balloon, repelled, then attracted again over and over.
  6. Explain what is happening and why:
    In this activity you will see the salt and pepper do a "dance" because of the following principles. The balloon, being rubbed with wool, takes on a negative charge. When it is held near the salt and pepper, the salt and pepper become charged positively by induction and will leap and cling to the balloon. As the salt and pepper remain in contact with the balloon, some of the negative charge (electrons) will drain off the balloon and onto the salt and pepper. The salt and pepper now have a negative charge – the same as the balloon – and will leap from the balloon. Notice that the salt and pepper do not simply fall, but rather they appear to be thrown from the balloon by some force. The force is the repelling action of the electrostatic charges for each other.

Excerpted from Hands-On Science Activities for Grades 3-4.

Free 7-Day Trial for TeacherVision®

Sign up for a free trial and get access
to our huge library of teaching materials!

Start Trial


Celebrate the Festival of Lights in your classroom! Hanukkah begins at sundown December 6.

December Calendar of Events
December is full of events that you can incorporate into your standard curriculum. Our Educators' Calendar outlines activities for each event, including: World AIDS Day (12/1), International Volunteer Day (12/6), Hanukkah (begins at sundown 12/6), Handwashing Awareness Week (12/6-12), Computer Science Education Week (12/7-13), Human Rights Day (12/10), Winter Solstice (12/22), Christmas (12/25), Kwanzaa (begins 12/26), Visit the Zoo Day (12/27), and New Year's Eve (12/31). Plus, celebrate Bingo's Birthday Month, Universal Human Rights Month, and Write to a Friend Month all December long!

Hour of Code
Introduce your students to basic coding and computer science! Celebrate Computer Science Education Week from December 7-13, 2015 with our Top 5 Free Coding Tools for Kids, Top 5 Free Coding Tools for Teens, or the Hour of Code resources provided by Code.org®

Interested in using different types of media in your classroom? We have a growing collection of videos, with related activities, for holidays and events, including: slavery & the Civil War, American History, U.S. Presidents, handwashing awareness, the Common Core, women's history, Memorial Day, the American Revolution, and the environment. Enjoy!

Teaching with Comics: Galactic Hot Dogs
Reach reluctant readers and English-language learners with comics! Our original teaching guides to the Galactic Hot Dogs comic series (chapters 1-4 and 5-8), as found on Funbrain.com (and now in print!), will take students on a cosmic adventure while engaging their creative minds. Plus, find even more activities for teaching with comics, featuring many other classic stories.