The truth about Ben Franklin’s kite flying might just SHOCK you!

June 15th is National Electricity day. Where would we be without electricity? Quite literally in the dark! No one person “invented” electricity. Electricity is a form of energy and it exists in nature, it had to be discovered, like gravity! Many elementary school students are taught that Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity in 1752 when his kite was struck by lightning in a storm. This is a GREAT story, but it simply isn’t true. Ask George Washington after he’s done chopping down the cherry tree. (another great story that simply isn’t true!)

Engraving from 1846 depicting young George Washington confessing to his father.

Electricity has always existed, so pinpointing exactly who discovered it can be tricky. The Ancient Greeks discovered in about 600 BC that when they rubbed fur on fossilized tree resin there was an attraction between the two. This was static electricity. Archaeologists in the 1930’s discovered pots with sheets of copper inside that they believe may have been ancient batteries meant to produce light at sights of both the Romans and the Persians leading them to believe those civilizations may have used some form of battery.

By the 17th century the discoveries related to electricity were multiplying! By 1752 when Ben Franklin came into the picture he was able to prove that lightning and tiny electric sparks were the same thing. Spoiler alert – if Franklin’s kite had been struck by lightning, he likely would have died.

Advancements in discovery continue when in 1800 Alessandro Volta constructed the an early electric battery that produced a steady electric current making him the first person to create a steady flow of electrical charge. By 1831 electricity could be created in a practical way – opening the door for American inventor Thomas Edison and British scientist Joseph Swan. They each invented the incandescent filament light bulb in their respective countries in about 1878. Light bulbs had been invented before this by others, but the incandescent bulb was the first practical bulb that would remain lit for hours. We will learn more about Thomas Edison and the light bulb on National Inventors Day in February!

In the mean time – if you would like the rest of the Story about Benjamin Franklin and the Kite I have put together a fact filled resource for you: FRANKLIN & THE KITE: LAPBOOK, NOTEBOOK OR MINI BOOK. This curriculum is suitable for learners in grades 3 and up. There is both a video and Informational Text. You can use either or both to complete the activity. As a BONUS there is a Word Study included because Franklin is responsible for coining several words related to electricity.

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With Love,

“Mrs. Crabtree”

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