I've got the Power!

Playing around with aspects of electricity never ceases to be something students love doing in the classroom. I think that in such a technologically enhanced society, we can overlook the simple brilliance, pleasure and awe that can come from looking at the basic components and principles of electrical circuits.

The potential for great tinkering, creation and exploration with electronic materials is limitless. In the mid-1990s, I remember the joy and fascination of the experimenting with the Dick Smith 'Fun Play' electronic kits. These kits provided a detailed way for children to develop an understanding of how circuits worked. There is now an abundance of similar kits to be found in stores like JayCar for students to tinker and play with, but they just don't have the same appealing simplicity of those kits from yesteryear.

This term I have been working with the Year 6 students at my school, breaking open 'what is a circuit?' whilst simultaneously gathering data about how much electricity our school consumes and in what ways. The main aim of the project is to identify the most costly aspects of electricity consumption within our school and create REAL solutions to bringing this down in economic and environmental terms. The skills and knowledge I want students to develop consist of:

  • Developing an understanding of basic circuits, how to build them and construct them to highlight a specific point about electricity.
  • Using data gathering tools such as electronic metres, energy calculators and spreadsheet software to collect, analyse, interpret and use data to support a hypothesis and drive change.

We are only in the early stages of this inquiry unit, but the thing that struck me so hard throughout the initial provocation with each class was just how interesting the students found the experience of connecting jump leads, batteries, switches, LED lights, resistors and batteries on breadboards to make simple circuits. In an age of accessible and thoroughly meaningful VR, AR and web-based learning experiences, it was rather heartwarming to see the same joy being experienced by students using the same materials I had when I was their age.

Some things are just always going to be great.

Making with 'Makedo'

The Year 4 block

The main building/library

The school hall

The infants play equipment

Younger students quite often show such a fearlessness in trying new things and having a go. Some of our Year 2 students were investigating measurement and scale, looking specifically at our school grounds. Given the amount of great cardboard we have that parents continuously donate and the availability of the Makedo resources that I bought earlier in the year for Year 4's Rube Goldberg Machine challenge, we had a recipe for great collaboration and design.

Makedo are basically plastic tools and parts like screws, screwdrivers, saws and hooks that work amazingly with cardboard to enhance the building process. Makedo gives students the chance to use very tool-like items to construct and build, without the mess and waste of tape and glue. It's very safe and really provides students with a sense that they're actually building something, rather than sticking things together. I have seen some great examples of this used in other schools and I'm now utterly hooked. I know that photos can always paint a pretty picture, but seriously the level of excitement, problem-solving and collaboration and construction these students exhibited was contagious!

Putting it all together.....