Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Paper Circuit Origami Fish! EES

Fifth graders are all aglow over their new, shiny light up fish!

Teaching basic circuitry through art is exciting and gratifying. Students sometimes come with basic preknowledge about how circuits work, but sometimes electricity is still an outlet-box-on-a-wall mystery.

To make it a little less mysterious, I lay out supplies and kids discuss what the objects are. After modeling a basic circuit with an LED, wire, and a battery, I substitute in other conductive materials to demystify the wire.

Look!  A barrette, a steel clip, a paper clip, a key... so many things can conduct electricity, and could stand in place of the wire.  After several kids had the chance at putting together a simple circuit, we took a break from electricity to fold the fish.

This is the fish we made. The folding technique is pretty simple, but origami can be frustrating so I model it several times. Here's a video of me folding to show how you can do it too:

At the end of the first class, we had lots o' fishies, some finished being folded, and several that needed more time.

Next class, we revisited the circuitry, and they could tell me lots of useful things that they remembered.  Here is the underside of a finished fish:

And a little more on how to do it:

It was a celebration each and every time a new one lit up.

But we had one that just wouldn't light up, and wouldn't light up, and wouldn't light up.  I checked it again and again, to see it all wired correctly each time. Even after replacing the battery and LED, we couldn't figure it out. And then, AHA!  Like a little light bulb illuminating my brain, I realized that the entire paper was conductive, and we were short circuiting the battery. Oops!  Good thing I only had one kiddo opt for the metallic, aluminum origami paper.

This little bugger was a great learning experience for all of us, including me!
Students were amazing at supporting each other's learning, so that early-finishers could help those with further questions!

A whole school of cool fish! 
(Sorry, I had to!)

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