Activity: Lamp, Lantern, Flashlight

TAKE APART a flashlight and you’ll see it’s simply a battery-holding tube with an on-off switch at the side. You can build one with a quick trip to the hardware store.


  • Some D-cell batteries
  • Copper wire (long strands of aluminum foil may be substituted)
  • Electrical tape
  • Flashlight bulb
  • An empty mason jar or any glass jar
  • Possibly tape, aluminum foil, paper, empty toilet paper tube, scissors, or wire cutters

Start with a D-cell battery and a piece of copper wire about 10 inches long or so. With electrical tape, connect one end of the wire firmly to the bottom terminal of the battery. Wrap the other end of the wire tightly around the metal casing of a small flashlight light bulb. Position the light bulb so it touches the top of the battery. It should light up.

You’ve created a simple circuit that works when energy flows from the battery to the wire to the light bulb and back to the battery. If the bulb doesn’t light, fiddle with the wires and connections until it does.

Once it lights, wrap the wire around the battery so the bulb stays put on top. That’s the lamp. If the bottom wobbles, look for a holder. The electrical tape roll usually does a good job. If you spy an empty mason jar on the shelf, turn it upside down and place over the lamp and you have yourself a lantern, for indoors or out.

You’ll notice that the light bulb isn’t that bright, and that regular flashlights use two D-cell batteries. Stack a second battery on top of the first. Use as much electrical tape as necessary to bind the two batteries together. Place the bulb on the top battery and you’ll see the difference. The bulb will become slightly hot; don’t touch it and burn yourself.

To adapt into a flashlight, fashion a holder, whether it be poster board cut and taped to fit, a toilet-paper tube (lead the wire outside the tube), or lots more electrical wire wrapped around the two batteries (its bright colors provide decorative possibility).

Now for the on-off switch. For simplicity’s sake, this can be accomplished by pulling the wire, forcing the bulb to move away from the battery and turn off. You can also cut the wire in half. To make the light go on, connect the wires and attach a sprig of electrical tape to hold them together. Remove the tape to detach the wires, break the circuit, and turn the flashlight off.