December is a busy month.
There are gifts to buy, parties to attend, family visiting from out of town…. Plus, there are all the usual commitments like school, work, and running kids to various activities.
This year seems like it’s been extra busy.
Somewhere in all the chaos we’ve managed to squeeze in a few new Christmas STEM activities.
One of our favorites is making a Christmas-themed graphite circuit and creating pictures that really light up!
Graphite circuits are one of our favorite STEM activities for kids.
This STEM project is really a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) activity that is perfect for elementary kids and tweens.
You may also like our Elf on the Shelf STEM Activities.
Christmas Tree Graphite Circuit
Start by having your child draw a simple Christmas tree on the paper.
Graphite is a weak conductor, so the light bulb will light up better with a smaller tree. I suggest making the tree no taller than 6 inches for the best effect.
Once the tree is drawn, have them color it however they wish. We settled on simple red ball ornaments, but your child might want a variety of ornaments and garland decorating their tree.
The next step is to use your graphite pencil to draw a thick line around the tree.
You want the line to be close to 1/4 inch thick, with no white spaces in the lines as you draw.
Leave 1/4 inch space at the bottom and the top of the tree where you don’t use the graphite pencil.
Use a small amount of tape to fasten each of the wire leads from your LED bulb to the graphite outline that is at the top of the tree so that the bulb straddles the empty space.
We discovered that the mini LED Christmas lights we have worked great for this activity. Just take the bulb out of the plastic casing.
Flip your 9 volt battery upside down and place it so it straddles the gap at the bottom of the tree, with one prong on each of the black graphite pencil lines.
The bulb on top of the tree should light up. If not, turn your battery around so the positive and negative prongs touch the opposite sides of the tree.
Why does the graphite circuit work?
Graphite is a conductor, which means electricity can travel along it. When you place the battery at the bottom of the tree and the LED bulb at the top, you close the circuit. This allows electricity from the battery to travel along the graphite lines to the LED bulb, making it light up.
We had lots of fun with this Christmas STEM activity and are looking forward to experimenting more with graphite circuits in the future.
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