Create Lightening


To create your own lightening using just a few simple tools – things that you are likely to find already in your home or at the grocery store. You will be able to see and possibly hear the lightening as it’s created!

Additional information

Lightening is a beautiful and frightening natural element. You can hear its boom from miles and miles away and see it light up a completely dark sky – if only for a moment. You don’t have to wait for the next thunderstorm to see lightening – here’s how you can make your very own lightening in your own home!

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Required materials

  • Foil pie plate
  • Writing pen (ball point will work very well)
  • Tack
  • Sock (must be wool)
  • Styrofoam block
  • Glue (if necessary)
  • Video camera, if you have one
  • Notebook paper or journal

Estimated Experiment Time

About thirty to sixty minutes.

Step-By-Step Procedure

  • 1. Gather your materials on the kitchen counter or on the table.
  • 2. Begin by placing your tack in the pie plate from the bottom up. The sharp point should be sticking out of the top of the pie plate.
  • 3. Place the pen in the pie plate, using the tack to anchor it. You may need to use a drop or two of glue to get the pen anchored really well. If you do use glue, let it dry before proceeding.
  • 4. After this, do not touch the pie plate with your hands! You will not be able to conduct the experiment if you do.
  • 5. Take the sock and rub the block of Styrofoam quickly. This will create the negative charge you need to create the lightening spark.
  • 6. Pick up the pie plate by holding on to the pen and push it down on top of the Styrofoam block so the tack is lodged into the Styrofoam and anchors it in place.
  • 7. Turn out the lights. If you have a video camera, you can film the lightening spark.
  • 8. Bring your hand towards the pie plate slowly, without touching it. This will complete the experiment.


You may want to have an adult with you as you perform the experiment to supervise.


Record each step of the experiment in your journal or on a piece of notebook paper. Be sure to describe everything in detail if you do not have a video camera to record the experiment.


When you bring your hand close to the pie plate, an electric spark will be created. You will see and hear it and possibly even feel it! What you have created is tiny lightening!

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Take a moment to visit our table of Periodic Elements page where you can get an in-depth view of all the elements, complete with the industry first side-by-side element comparisons!

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