Working with electricity has been tough for me. I never learned it in school myself, never have really experimented around with it for fun and have never had any kind of professional development. That leaves a person really out in the weeds when they have to teach an electricity unit.
DIY PD....Gotta love it.
I do have a book and LTs from other teachers. Lots of worksheets. But is this really the best way to learn? Of course not. But it's what I have right now. A complicating problem is that the equipment we have is mostly broken or lost....so I only have enough stuff to cobble together something for 3 groups.
We worked with the broken equipment for as long as I could stand it and read the book and answered worksheet question. Ugh.... Then I couldn't take it and I decided, after a ton of research, that we could probably do something called Squishy Circuits. You've probably seen this a ton in the museum spaces or in MAKER conferences. It uses playdough instead of wires and only requires 4-AAs.
Fortunately the inventor of this idea has uploaded tons of video (for my DIY PD) where I could learn almost everything I needed to know. I also was able to show my students the videos about conductive and insulating playdough...how to make it.
Our only hurdle was the power supply. We didn't have anything like what they showed to connect the electricity from the batteries into the playdough. So I thought I'd give it to the students to apply what they've learned from the book into building a power supply.
I thought it was neat they realized they'd need to use the multimeter to measure to voltage. I'm patting myself on the back that they applied one thing we'd learned to this new real-life situation. Gotta take victories when you can find them.
It's a lot to ask to build this from construction paper, old Christmas light wire, rubber bands, alumunium foil and electrical tape.
And they came up with all sort of configurations and discoveries.
"WOW, the aluminum foil gets really hot when you put the batteries on it"
"I figured out how to hook up two batteries. You mean now I have to figure out how to hook up 2 more?"
More in the next post about how a virtual colleague pitched into help me and the kids with this challenge.
Funny thing is they learned that too much "power" blows up a light bulb. Right after I snapped this picture, they could hear the filament pop. That generated a whole conversation about whether or not the same thing would happen with the LEDs and the playdough. As we talked about it, they actually realized that the resistance of the playdough would mitigate the abundance of power...and probably wouldn't harm the LEDs. But we'll have to see.