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By now, your fifth grader has probably heard of atoms. They're the smallest particle of a chemical element that can take part in a chemical reaction without being permanently changed. They're also made up of protons and neutrons in a central nucleus surrounded by electrons. Sound familiar?
Sometimes, a large number of atoms in an object will gain or lose electrons (negatively charged subatomic particles that are found at varying distances from an atom's nucleus). When this happens, the entire object takes on an electric charge. The term static electricity describes situations where objects carry electric charge. And by using static electricity generated from her body, a child can cause a small fluorescent lamp bulb to light up!