Free Technology for Teachers: What is Lightning?

Saturday was the first summer thunderstorm in our home. Lightning and lightning overhead started to crack just when I made it from a bike ride. The storm prompted my five-year-old to ask, “What is lightning?” We tried to give my daughter a brief explanation that light is electricity traveling in clouds or between clouds and dust. It is, of course, “How does electricity come into the clouds?” Both were good questions that prompted me to go to some of my old, trusted YouTube channels to answer such questions.

SciShow Kids is the first place I go back to for explaining elementary school level for questions related to earth science. There I found the cause of lightning and thunder? The video begins by explaining that the shock you feel when you touch the door knob after walking on the carpet is caused by static electricity. From there the lesson explains how static electricity works similarly in clouds. I didn’t actually show this video to my daughter, but it gave me a great idea to better answer her question about what lightning is and how lightning comes in the clouds.

The other place I usually turn to for things like this is National Geographic’s 101 Series. That’s where I found Thunderstorms 101. This video is a little more advanced than the SciShow Kids video but suitable for high school or middle school. The video explains the different types of thunderstorms and the conditions that cause them.

Application for education

If you are in elementary school and have kids of the same age as me, both of these videos can help you explain lightning and thunder to them. And if you have a slightly older student, you may want to consider using these videos in a self-paced lesson where students must answer questions before playing each section of the video. Here are some tools to help you do just that.

(However, my four-year-old fell asleep through the whole thunderstorm on Saturday).

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