Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Dangers of Alligator Clips

Maya has an educational electricity experiment kit. Last night, it was decided that I would give a multi-level lesson on electricity for my wife and both kids. L needs the information for the final part of her teacher credential examination. Maya and Josh need the information on general educational principles. Besides, electricity is cool! So, we started with the first experiment, wherein we learn that electricity travels in a loop...

The materials that come with the set make it pretty scalable and I had gotten them all to catch on to the concept that electricity requires a closed path to travel. I used some of the more technical terms like votage, current, and reisitance for L. Then it was time for the kids to make circuits. Took a nice, low voltage, low danger C cell (not included) and added it to the bulb assembly with two terminals, the rubber band, and two colored wires with alligator clips at either end. The rubber band wraps around the battery and hold the clips in place without draining voltage or shorting the circuit. Then the clips go to the buld. Josh had a lot of fun closing and opening the circuit and observing the light toggle. Then Maya took a turn.

We played with the for a bit. The I swapped out the light for a mini motor and we made a fan, a pinwheel, and a color wheel. While the kids were enjoying that, I showed L visually what series and parallel circuits were and why houses tended to be wired in parallel. It made a lot more sense to her than the book did. After a while, it was time for me to go to rehearsal. I left the kids in the kitchen coloring color wheels while I went into the office to check something for L before I left.

We were in the office for maybe five minutes when we hear a high pitched screaming from the kitchen. Clearly Maya was being hurt and it wasn't a sudden injury that stopped. Fron the panic in her voice, this was continuous. We raced out to the kitchen to save her. L was thinking she was being electrocuted and I was thinking there is NO way she was being electrocuted from a C battery. When we got out there, she was indeed attached to the wire. I did a split second exam and determined that hte circuit was not closed, so I followed the other wire. The alligator clip was on the end of her tongue! And she was not strong enough to open it.

I extricated her from the wire and rushed her over to the sink. Not surprisingly, the clip had drawn a good amount of blood. We finally settled on a popsicle for soothing both the emotional and physical hurt.

Before soothing her, I gave her a lecture on never putting any part of an electricity experiment into her mouth. L informed her that she could have died. I reined her back from that a bit, but emphasized the seriousness of the situation. I mentioned the name. Alligator clip. I asked if she thought something like that might be dangerous and inquired as to what she was doing. "I couldn't get it opened. So I was opening it with my mouth." she told me between sobs. Apparently, it slipped out from between her teeth and caught her tongue. And she couldn't get it undone.

As the adrenaline wore off, I realized she must be in a lot of pain and switched to a more soothing tone. We had a little snuggle and I rubbed her back. I joked with her about the danger a bit and gradually she began to feel better. Hopefully, she has learned her lesson. However, I am going to do a little shock experiment with the clips and her tonge, just so she can understand the danger. :)