Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ready, set, glow! Project Explore- Flynn Elementary

The Spring 2014 fourth grade group learned about building and integrating simple circuits.  This session was the first time I have taught students about electricity, so it was both really exciting and a learning curve for all of us.

Conductive dough is the blue-grey, insulating dough is lime
We began with making play dough.  The kids broke into four groups and worked from recipes to make either conductive or insulating dough.  Yes, I let them cook it on the stove.  At this point they did not know what they would be doing with the doughs.

(Except for eating it. They all wanted to eat the sugar dough.  They tell me it was delicious.)
Series circuit caterpillar

After discussing a little on how circuits work, and watching some Sylvia's Mini Maker videos, the students experimented with batteries and LEDs to attempt to:
1) Identify through experimenting which dough was conductive and which was insulating
2) Create a series circut
3) Create a parallel circuit


The next week, after feeling more comfortable with a simple circuit, students made magic wands. They drew a diagram of how it should look, labeling the positives, negatives, battery, etc.  They used sticks, pipe cleaners, button cell batteries, copper tape, electrical tape, a slow changing RedGreenBlue (RGB) LED.  

Thinkers. Tinkerers.

And then, being me, I say Go! And they say, wait, what?  How does this all go together?  Where are my directions?  What goes where? Making an on/off switch was the real bear for most of them. At this point, their faces looked about like this.


This is my favorite moment in teaching. Not the Aha! moment, but the Wait a minute, why isn't this working? Look at the cogs turning in that little head.

This is where the real learning happens: It's not working, what other variable can I change?

This is also where the real frustration happens.  And sometimes, the tears: Why isn't it working?  Am I a failure? Maybe I am not good at this.

And then it happens. Sometimes quickly, sometimes not for quite a while. A flicker of light and a little sharp inhale of air.  I saw it!  I did it!  Wait, I can do it again.  I got this, Mrs. Elliott.

Now, add some pizazz to that stick, kids.  This is a magic wand, after all. Do it up with some yarn, ribbon, and cellophane.

And so, naturally, we turned off all the lights and danced around with our color changing magic wands.  Every child in the room was certain they were Harry Potter.
But that's not all.  The next week, we added motors to our materials mix.  More on that soon.

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