In a storm cloud, the moving air makes tiny water droplets and ice rub together so they become charged with static electricity. The positive electrical charges float up near the top of the cloud and the larger ones, with negative charges, stay near the bottom. This separation of electrical charges is very unstable and lightning is the way the charges are equalized or become balanced.

Method 1

  1. A large iron or steel pot (not aluminum) with a plastic handle.
  2. Rubber gloves.
  3. An iron or steel fork.
  4. A plastic sheet (a dry-cleaner garment bag is good source).

Method 2
  1. Inflated balloons.
  2. Wool clothing - like a wool sweater - or a piece of real fur (No, don't use your pet!).
  3. A metal surface like a filing cabinet or a metal door knob.
Method 1

Tape the plastic sheet to a table top.

Put on the rubber gloves.

Darken the room as much as possible.

Hold the large iron pot or pan by its insulating handle and rub the pan vigorously to and fro on the plastic sheet.

Holding the fork firmly in the other hand, bring its prongs slowly near the rim. When the gap between pot and fork is small, a tiny spark should jump across (A darker room will help you see the spark more clearly).

Method 2

Inflate balloons.

Darken the room as much as possible.

Rub the balloon(s) rapidly against a wool sweater or a piece or real fur about ten times or more.

Move the balloon close to something metal like a filing cabinet or a door knob.

Method 1
It is as though the pan is the thundercloud, the fork is the lighting rod and you are the Earth's surface.

Method 2
The balloon is being used to create static electricity. The flash or spark that jumps from the balloon to the metal object is like lighting, though much, much smaller in scale.

Please note: The humidity in the air can affect static electricity. If the air is damp, such as during the winter, then this experiment may not work.

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