Columbia Dry Cell Battery Mark as Favorite (1 Favorite)

LESSON PLAN in History, Reduction, Redox Reaction, Galvanic Cells, Oxidation, Cathode, Anode, ACS National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program. Last updated December 27, 2023.


In this lesson, students will learn about electrochemistry and electric cells (batteries) by reading an article and engaging in related activities. The activities help promote literacy in the science classroom. Parts of this lesson could be used as plans for a substitute teacher.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This lesson will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • HS-PS1-2: Construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


By the end of this lesson, students should be able to

  • Understand the history of the development of the battery.
  • Describe how electricity is produced from a chemical reaction.
  • Explain how electricity is transferred (flows) between two different substances.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of:

  • Electrochemistry
  • Galvanic/Voltaic Cells
  • Oxidation
  • Reduction
  • Redox Reactions
  • Batteries


Teacher Preparation:

Lesson: Approximate times for students to complete each activity in the lesson:

  • Anticipation Guide: 10 minutes
  • Reading: 20 minutes
  • Timeline: 10 minutes
  • Oxidation and Reduction: 20 minutes
  • Compare and Contrast: Wet Cell versus Dry Cell: 10 minutes
  • Video Questions: How Does a Battery Work?: 20 minutes
  • Energy by Mass of Fuels: 10 minutes
  • Writing Exercise: Electric Automobiles: 20 minutes


  • Reading document and desired handouts to accompany the reading.
  • Internet (for possible research)


  • No safety considerations

Teacher Notes


Lesson Overview:

The lesson includes multiple components, as outlined individually below. The Reading is essential for all the activities. Teachers can choose to do one or all of the included activities. Student handouts and corresponding answer keys are provided for each item described below:

  • Activity: Anticipation Guide
    • Students will identify whether they agree or disagree with the ten statements. After they complete the reading, they can adjust their answers and rephrase “disagree” statements, so they read true.
  • Reading: The Columbia Dry Cell Battery
  • Activity: Timeline
    • During or after the reading, students will match the correct year, with the name of a scientist, and the associated contribution/discovery from a bank of possibilities, organizing them in chronological order.
  • Activity: Oxidation and Reduction
    • Students are provided with a brief overview of oxidation and reduction reactions, then are tasked with applying their understanding to a series of related questions.
  • Activity: Compare and Contrast: Wet Cell versus Dry Cell
    • Students will inspect two diagrams--one is a diagram of a wet cell, while the other is a diagram of a dry cell. Then they will answer questions, referring to the diagrams to formulate their responses.
  • Activity: Video Questions: How Does a Battery Work?
    • Students will watch a YouTube video (4 minutes, 55 seconds) that describes how a motorcycle battery works. They will answer the provided questions as they watch the video.
  • Activity: Energy by Mass of Fuels
    • Students are given a table of selected energy sources, along with their respective energy amounts. They will use the data to answer the provided questions.
  • Activity: Writing Exercise: Electric Automobiles
    • Students (individually or in small groups) will research and write a short opinion piece for or against electric vehicles. If time, groups can form and have a (friendly) debate on the topic.