Lightning is a powerful burst of electricity that happens very quickly during a thunderstorm. It can occur inside clouds, between clouds and from clouds to the ground. Lightning contains millions of volts of electricity.
These lesson plans provide an opportunity for your students to learn about the theory and practice of science in relation to electricity, lightning and modern aircraft safety.
What is lightning?
Rising air currents move particles around the cloud. Usually, positive charges (water droplets) accumulate towards the top of the cloud and negative charges (ice particles) towards the base of the cloud. This separation of charge creates an electric field which is also usually negative at the base and positive at the top.
Clouds are made of particles including ice and water droplets. Due to convection, the particles move up and down throughout the cloud. As they collide, a frictional force strips some particles of their electrons making them positively charged. Some particles gain electrons and become negatively charged. This process is known as ionisation.
The strong electric field causes the air to break down. This means that the air becomes less resistant and allows electrons to flow from the cloud, down to the ground. Several paths of electrons start to move from the cloud. These branches are known as leaders. As they approach earth, objects on the ground respond to the increased electric field and positive streamers move upwards. When a downwards moving leader meets an upward moving streamer, this creates a conductive path for electric current to flow. This creates a very bright spark which we know as a lightning bolt. This entire process lasts for only a fraction of a second.
B1.2 – B2 Intermediate
90 mins approximately per lesson
Below you will find:
- three short videos to include as part of the class activity
- three teacher lesson plans to accompany each video
- three student worksheets to accompany each video.