Lemon Battery: Collaborative Problem-Solving

Grades 3-8 50 min
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Work collaboratively to make light with lemons.

Can you light up an LED with just some simple materials? Challenge your students to work collaboratively to figure it out and then make a switch to turn the light on and off with just a paper clip. Since students will not be able to gather with classmates, have them work with their family to complete this task. You should try this out yourself to get comfortable before assigning it to your students.

Learning Objectives

  • Work collaboratively in groups or with family to light an LED, using lemons, zinc and copper nails, and alligator clip wires. 
  • Use an engineering design process to create a switch for the lemon battery LED. 

What You’ll Need

Hands-on

  • 6 lemons
  • 1 LED (3–5 watt)
  • 6 zinc nails or strips
  • 6 copper nails or strips
  • 7 wires (with alligator clips, if possible)
  • 1 paper clip

 

Note: A complete kit of materials is available for purchase from Carolina Biological Supply Company.

Minds-on

  • Perseverance
  • Exploration
  • Collaboration
  • Design thinking

Your Challenge

Use lemons for more than just making lemonade. Challenge your students to design a switch for a lemon battery powered LED with materials found around the house to conserve energy.

 

What did you find most challenging about this activity?

How did your group or family use failed attempts to guide your next design?

How did having other people to work with make this task easier? How did working with others make it harder?

For Students

  • Would more lemons make the light brighter? Can you test your prediction?
  • How could you make your switch more reliable? How could you make it easier to use?

For Teachers

      • How can students’ self-reflection (or metacognition) be made even more effective?
        • For example, have students share their solution to the switch problem with another family and get feedback on their design. After getting that feedback, have students describe how they might change their switch design.
      • Could you build on student success here to begin work on other electrical circuits?
      • Other introductory electricity activities, such as how to build a simple flashlight or a light-up quilt square, are also available from Hacking STEM.
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