4th Grade Circuit Stations and Interactive Switches

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A few years ago, I saw an interactive paper circuit mural on Twitter and was enamored with the idea of a large oversized collaborative paper circuit. I had a bit of trouble tracking down the original, but finally found it (thanks to Ryan Jenkins and Aaron Vanderwerff), and this collaborative lesson design from Creativity Lab at the Lighthouse Community Charter school. (Make your own oversized paper circuit thanks to Creativity Lab!)

Aaron V. also suggested using two different types of tape to differentiate between the positive and negative routing. (A GREAT TIP for students new to paper circuits!)

I loved the idea of the collaborative circuit, but was worried with my short time in the library and not having enough facilitators, that my students would get frustrated too easily.

Plus, I wanted students to create simple circuits in a different station and at this station, I wanted them to focus on completing the circuit by creating inventive switches (and playing with what is conductive and what is an insulator.)

By building an oversized paper circuit with multiple breaks where switches would need to be created, I hoped to create a playful atmosphere. One of the happy accidents of this prototype, was that students would not only have to complete each circuit to have all LEDS light up in parallel, but they would also have to work collaboratively to make sure all the lights stayed on!

I tried it out on my own 8 YO to make sure it was “tinkerable.”

Only 4-5 students could be at the collaborative paper circuit at once, and my other stations needed a little more guidance.  After the Scratch poetry unit, many of my 4th graders were enamored with Makey Makey, so one station was to test items for conductivity with Makey Makey (and their teachers manned this station.) I basically just set up a lot of weird stuff, and set out Makey Makeys with computers directed to the Makey Makey piano. They tracked their learning on a clipboard, and the students just loved finding out that water, plants, and fruit is conductive.

With the help of my QUEST teachers, I had a station where students created simple paper circuits using the Chibitronics template/ and squishy circuits.

The last station was the inventive switch station. Since I wanted this spot to be the most self-guided and playful, I set up the Tinkering Studio video about homemade switches, and told the group their goal was to light up all the LEDS…. then I let them play!

We had fun playing and seeing what materials would work on the oversized circuit. It was cool to see students engaged with curiosity and tinkering to learn!

 

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2nd Grade Design Challenges

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Brown Bag Challenge

A couple of weeks ago on Twitter, I saw a tweet that encompassed some of my favorite concepts of a maker mindset. In the tweet, Angie O’ Malley, a STEAM educator in Washington(and a FABLearn Fellow), challenged her #elemakers to make robots with super powers ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. (High five, Angie!) By handing kids a simple bag of random materials, students were challenged to create a robot with the everyday materials in front of them.  I loved how she added the context of super powers, because it gave the students just enough direction (and constraint) to all make completely different and amazing robots.

I knew that I had to see what our Mason students would make with this fun challenge, but I also wanted to do this with FIVE different 2nd grade classes. So and I decided to add teaching the importance of recycling and re-use, and told students up front that they would build robots, snap a picture, and then dis-assemble after building so the next group could re-use the same materials.

The robots they made were super adorable. I took pictures and stored them in a Googledoc for each teacher with the intent that students could write about their robots in the future. (I’m also thinking if time allowed, it would be fun to have students make a Chatterpix of their robot describing its super powers.)

Here are some of their amazing creations!

More super hero #robots made today during our #brownbagchallenge! Thanks again, @Eleminnovators for this cool #makered activity. #makered

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Mrs. Denny’s sweet students wrote me thank you notes for “letting” them make robots in the library.

Designing an Accessible Playground

After seeing Angie’s great tweet about robots, I delved further into her work and discovered her amazing blog: Elementary Innovators.  She has so many great ideas posted, but one that really stuck out was a post about designing accessible playground equipment. Since we might be getting new playground equipment at Mason, I thought it would be great for our 2nd graders to design a new playground that is accessible for ALL of our students.

Using the design thinking process, we discussed user needs and the concept of accessibility. We asked students to brainstorm ideas out loud and on paper, and then sketch out accessible playground ideas.

Ideas included:

  • Lower Monkey bars so a student in a wheelchair could use them
  • Lower Monkey bars with a platform underneath that would move the wheelchair as the user “swung” across the bars
  • Zip line swings
  • An elevator to the slide
  • A moving sidewalk to the Playscape
  • A computer talker – A student wanted a computer so that one of our nonverbal students could tap on the computer to have it speak and tell others where he wants to play.
  • A Wheelchair zipline that lifts the chair safely
  • A lift to put a child in a swing
  • An accessible trampoline- a platform for a wheelchair that bounces the rider while they are safely in their chair.
  • And some students had super complicated ideas that were just plain awesome like this dinosaur with a slide coming out of it’s mouth!

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Listen to this student talk about her design:

A 1st grader's idea for making a wheelchair accessible swing. HT Angie O'Malley ! #storyofmason #designthinking

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Little people have pretty amazing ideas! I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!