Coin Battery


Students will explore basic principles of electricity and will create their own battery.

Coin Type(s)

  • Cent
  • Dime

Coin Program(s)

  • Circulating Coins


  • Students will explore basic principles of electricity.
  • Students will create their own battery.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Science


  • 3rd
  • 4th
  • 5th
  • 6th
  • 7th
  • 8th

Class Time

  • Sessions: One
  • Session Length: 45 minutes
  • Total Length: 0-45 minutes


  • Small groups
  • Individual work

Terms and Concepts

  • Battery
  • Current
  • Dime
  • Electricity
  • Penny
  • Voltage


  • Voltmeter (available at hardware stores, one for whole class)
  • For each group you will need:
    • Copper wire
    • 5 pennies
    • 5 dimes
    • A mild soap to clean your coins
    • Salt water solution
    • 4 paper napkins

Lesson Steps

  1. Have the students work in groups to create their battery and record their steps and observations in their lab notebook. Have them first clean their coins with the soap. Explain that this type of experiment should not be done using coins to be saved for a collection. Washing coins is not recommended for coins intended for a coin collection.

  2. Have the students soak the napkins in the saltwater solution.

  3. Have the students create a “sandwich” with the coins and the napkins. They should fold the napkins until they are just a little bit bigger than the coins, then sandwich the napkin between a penny and a dime, making sure the ends of the stacks are different coins.

  4. Have the students connect the voltmeter to the ends of the stack. Explain that the reason is works is that the saltwater solution is an electrolyte. It reacts with the metals, which are electrodes. Since there are two kinds of metals (in the two different coins), one metal reacts more strongly than the other, which leaves an electrical potential difference (voltage) between the two types of metals.


  • Have students try this experiment with solutions of lemon juice and vinegar and find which works best.
  • Have students try this experiment with a penny and a nickel.


Use the directions, observations and conclusions recorded in the lab notebooks to assess whether the students have met the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

National Standards

Discipline: Science
Domain: 5-8 Content Standards
Cluster: Physical Science
Grade(s): Grades 5–8

  • Properties and changes of properties in matter
  • Motions and forces
  • Transfer of energy

Discipline: Science
Domain: 5-8 Content Standards
Cluster: Science as Inquiry
Grade(s): Grades 5–8

  • Ability necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Understand scientific inquiry