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Combining Series and Parallel Circuits — A Hands-on Lab Activity

In this lab student set up a single circuit with two batteries and four bulbs; two that are in series and two that are in parallel. When the circuit is closed, students are typically surprised and puzzled especially if they’ve done investigations into series and parallel circuits. Only by using the voltmeter and measuring what’s going on in each major portion of the circuit do they begin to understand what’s happening. This is a great culminating lab to do following a study of circuits. 


This activity provides more experience with series and parallel circuits and digs into the underlying processes of each. Students are asked to draw a simple circuit diagram showing their setup. 


Concepts Addressed

♦ Parallel and series portions of circuits differ dramatically in their potential difference 

♦ Lights need a given amount of power (voltage) to shine 

♦ Lights do not need to be shining to transmit a current


Materials Needed

4 twinkle lights, 3 alligator clips, 2 1.5V batteries, 2 battery holders


Materials Needed

10 twinkle lights, 4 alligator clips, 4 1.5V batteries, 4 battery holders


Time Required This lab takes about 40 mins. 


Student Sheets • Scaffolded writing prompts & lab reporting 

Combining Series and Parallel Circuits — A Hands-on Lab Activity


    Answer Keys and Teacher Notes address most questions and issues that might arise in this study—you shouldn’t have to do any outside research unless you want to.

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