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Electricity is an analogy that provides a way of helping students develop a real understanding of simple electric circuits. This interactive resource is provided by the Association for Science Education (ASE).

Aspects of simple electric circuits (such as cells, bulbs, charge, energy) are represented as parts of a bakery/supermarket analogy (bakery, supermarket, delivery van, bread). By completing each section of the programme students will develop their understanding of electric circuits and be able to explain features such as current conservation and the effect of adding bulbs and cells to simple series and parallel circuits.

Electricity consists of five sections:

1. An introduction to the analogy
Students review the components of the analogy and relate them to the corresponding parts of the electric circuit. The students’ answers to the questions can be printed out for checking by the teacher.

2. Matching the analogy to circuit diagrams
Students are asked to match a number of circuit diagrams to the appropriate version of the analogy.

3. Interactive analogy
Students run an interactive version of the analogy in which they can vary the number of bakeries (cells) and supermarkets (bulbs) in a simple series circuit. They can observe the effect of these changes on the amount of bread carried by each delivery van and the rate at which the vans arrive at the supermarket. A simple meter indicates the rate at which vans pass any point in the ‘circuit’ (as counted by the traffic observer whose position can be changed). The rate of supply of bread to and from the supermarket is represented by the number of customers leaving the supermarket.

4. The analogy for a parallel circuit
Students run a ‘parallel’ version of the analogy with a single bakery (cell) and two supermarkets (bulbs). The position of the traffic observer can be changed, showing the variation in rate of passage of vans (current) around the circuit, and this can be compared with readings taken from the ‘series’ circuits of Section 3.

5. Incorrect analogies
Students are asked questions about two incorrect versions of the analogy to check their understanding. The students’ answers can be printed off for checking.

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