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When Benjamin Franklin wanted to know whether the ants could talk or not, he asked the ants, and they told him. When he wanted to know some-thing else, he asked the sunshine about it, as you have read in another story. That is the way that Franklin came to know so many things. He knew how to ask questions of every-thing.

Once he asked the lightning a question. And the lightning gave him an answer.

Before the time of Franklin, people did not know what lightning was. They did not know what made the thunder. Franklin thought much about it. At last, he proved what it was. He asked the lightning a question, and made it tell what it was. To tell you this story, I shall have to use one big word. Maybe it is too big for some of my little friends that will read this book. Let us divide it into parts. Then you will not be afraid of it. The big word is electricity.

Those of you who live in towns have seen the streets lighted by electricity. But in Franklin's time there were no such lights. People knew very little about this strange thing with a big name.

But Franklin found out many things about it that nobody had ever known before. He began to think that the little sparks he got from electricity were small flashes of lightning. He thought that the little cracking sound of these sparks was a kind of baby thunder.

So he thought that he would try to catch a little bit of lightning. Perhaps he could put it into one of the little bottles used to hold electricity. Then if it behaved like electricity, he would know what it was. But catching lightning is not easy. How do you think he did it?

First he made a kite. It was not a kite just like a boy's kite. He wanted a kite that would fly when it rained. Rain would spoil a paper kite in a minute. So Franklin used a silk handkerchief to cover his kite, instead of paper.

He put a little sharp-pointed wire at the top of his kite. This was a kind of lightning rod to draw the lightning into the kite. His kite string was a common hemp string. To this he tied a key, because lightning will follow metal. The end of the string that he held in his hand was a silk ribbon, which was tied to the hemp string of the kite. Electricity will not follow silk.

One night when there was a storm coming, he went out with his son. They stood under a cow shed, and he sent his kite up in the air.

After a while he held his knuckle to the key. A tiny spark flashed between the key and his knuckle. It was a little flash of lightning.

Then he took his little bottle fixed to hold electricity. He filled it with the electricity that came from the key. He carried home a bottle of lightning. So he found out what made it thunder and lighten.

After that he used to bring the lightning into his house on rods and wires. He made the lightning ring bells and do many other strange things.

Note from UTH: This story may be more myth than fact. In 2006, Mythbusters episode "Franklin's Kite" attempted to recreate the kite experiment as described in this story. Their findings indicated that had Franklin successfully undertaken the experiment, he would have died.

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Study the lesson for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read the story multiple times.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Study the vocabulary words.
  • Learn the concepts.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Study the review questions.


In Franklin's time, people did not have electric lights and electrical outlets. They used candles. People did not know much about lightning and thunder. Benjamin Franklin was curious. He conducted an experiment involving lightning and electricity. He made a kite with a wire lightning rod at its top to attract the lightning. He attached a kite to one end of a string and a key to the other end. Franklin flew the kite in a lightning storm and held his knuckle to the key. A tiny spark flashed between his knuckle and the key. Franklin captured the energy from the lightning into a special bottle. He also brought lightning into his house to ring bells and perform other tasks.


Lightning: A bright flash of electricity produced during a storm.
Thunder: A loud rumbling or crash heard after a lightning flash.
Electricity: Phenomena associated with the flow of electric charge.


Facts about lightning:

  1. Lightning bolts hit the earth constantly - about one every second.
  2. Lightning hits people every year. Some lightning strikes are fatal.
  3. Lightning occurs during thunderstorms, volcanic eruptions, dust storms, snow storms, forest fires, and tornadoes.

Source: http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/weather/lightning.html


Activity 1: Narrate the Story

  • After reading or listening to the story, narrate the story events aloud using your own words.

Activity 2: Color the Story   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete page 15 of 'History Coloring Pages for First Grade.'

Activity 3: Study the Story Picture

Study the painting below, 'Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky.' Zoom in to see the details, and find the following:

  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Clouds
  • Angelic assistants
  • Angel dressed as an American Indian
  • Key
  • Spark jumping from the key to Franklin's knuckle
  • Lightning bolt


Question 1

What did Benjamin Franklin make to catch lightning?
1 / 3

Answer 1

Franklin made a kite.
1 / 3

Question 2

What did Benjamin Franklin tie onto the string?
2 / 3

Answer 2

Franklin tied a kite and a metal key to the string.
2 / 3

Question 3

When Benjamin Franklin brought lightning into his house, what did he use it for?
3 / 3

Answer 3

Franklin used the lightening to ring bells.
3 / 3

  1. What did Benjamin Franklin make to catch lightning? Franklin made a kite.
  2. What did Benjamin Franklin tie onto the string? Franklin tied a kite and a metal key to the string.
  3. When Benjamin Franklin brought lightning into his house, what did he use it for? Franklin used the lightening to ring bells.