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Build a Spud Light

For An Americanism Quiz


Today's Snack: Make an all-American parfait with a clear glass or plastic cup, and these ingredients, in order:


Bottom: cubes of angel-food cake, pressed down gently


Top with a layer of whipped cream


One-inch layer of fresh strawberries, cut in quarters with tops discarded


Top with another layer of whipped cream


One-inch layer of fresh blueberries


Top with one more layer of whipped cream


Press one quartered strawberry into the whipped cream at the top


You'll need to eat these with a spoon. Serve with a big glass of all-American milk.






For each student taking part in the quiz, visit the hardware store and the grocery store:


1 small flashlight bulb

One small bulb holder

Two electrical lead wires with alligator clips

A knife and an adult's help with cutting

One potato

One penny

One galvanized nail



First, build your "spud light" to help you light up when you know the answer to a quiz question.


How does a potato light work? A potato contains phosphoric (foss-FOR-ick) acid, which can be used as an electrolyte (ee-LECK-tro-lite). That turns the potato into a battery with stored energy.


To access a little of that energy, you have to provide two electrodes (ee-LECK-trodes) - the penny and the galvanized nail. You connect them with wiring and a lightbulb.


The phosphoric acid in the potato starts a chemical reaction between the copper in the penny and the iron in the nail. Electrons flow down the wires, creating a current that lights the bulb.


To build yours, screw the flashlight bulb into the bulb holder.


Attach one end of one electrical lead wire to one terminal on the bulb holder. Then attach the other lead wire to the other terminal.


Using the knife, with an adult's help, cut two small slits in the potato, at least one inch apart. Insert the penny into one slit and the nail into the other.


Attach one of the alligator clips on the end of one of the lead wires to the nail. Then attach the other alligator clip that's attached to the other lead wire to the penny.


Watch the lightbulb! It should light up.


For the quiz, line up every student's light in a row about 12 inches from the edge of the table. You can mark the line with masking tape to keep it fair.


Each student should have one of their alligator clips attached to the nail or penny, and hold the other free alligator clip off the edge of the table, so that it's at least 12" from the potato light.


Now when you ask a question, each student can reach forward and connect the alligator clip to the penny or nail, lighting their light, when they know the answer. The first one to light up gets to answer the question. If they get it right, give them one point. If they get it wrong, subtract one point.


These are 100 civics questions that every American student should know. The moderator can print out these questions, with the answers right below, and quiz students and keep score.


You can make the quiz long or short, depending on how much time you have.


You can use your potato light for a number of other games and activities, and when the potato goes bad, you can always use a new potato!


Here are the civics questions for your quiz bowl:




By Susan Darst Williams Americanism 08 2009




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