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Circuit Parts

The holidays are approaching and your dad has asked you to help him put some lights on the outside of the house.

All day long you worked in the freezing wind to make your house the most bright and beautiful one in the neighborhood.

The time has come! Dad flips the switch, and OH NO! There at the very top of the house is not just one, but a whole set of lights that are not working.

Frustrated, but not defeated, dad climbs the ladder and removes the light set. He discovers that one little light bulb caused all of the problem.


Why did this happen? It all has to do with the flow of electric current. This is called a circuit. A circuit consists of three major parts:

    1. Energy source
    2. Path
    3. Load
If there is only one path for the electricity to go and the wire breaks, the flow of electricity stops. That is what happened to the lights in the example above. This is called a series circuit.
In a parallel circuit, there are several paths for the current to follow, so if one path or wire breaks, it may not cause the entire circuit to break.

A series circuit = 1 path for the flow of electricity

A parallel circuit= several paths for the flow of electricity



  • Size “D” Battery
  • Battery holder (optional)
  • At least two Christmas tree light bulbs. The light bulb must be cut from an old string of working lights. Be sure to leave about two inches of wire on both sides of the bulb.
  • 2 pieces of aluminum foil (app. 3cm X 10 cm)

With the help of an adult, carefully strip the plastic insulator covering the copper wiring until it is exposed at the end of each wire.


Use the same materials listed above to make the light bulb light up!

  1. Diagram your method.
  2. Now design a series circuit. Diagram your method.
  3. Design a parallel circuit and diagram your method.

Think about it!

Congratulations: You have just made several circuits.


  1. What was the source of electricity that made the light bulb light up? Where does the electricity come from, and where does it go?
  2. What happens to the current when a wire is disconnected?
  3. A conductor is something that transfers electricity (or something that electricity flows through easily.) What was the conductor in your experiment?

Remember: All circuits must have a source for the electricity, a path for the electricity and something to use the electricity (also called the load.)


Get the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader , and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

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  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.
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Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 5th grade science core.

Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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