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!



Love to Code & Paper Circuit workshop with Jie Qi at #ISTE17

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This summer I was stoked to be a part of a programmable paper circuit workshop for educators at ISTE. Jie Qi of Chibitronics (and MIT Lifelong Kindergarten group!) asked me to assist at this workshop for educators in San Antonio.

Jie is a huge proponent of adding art to Science and Engineering concepts, and that’s why she is so passionate to develop paper circuit products that are accessible for all learners.

Plus, she knows that blending literacy concepts with art make it engaging and meaningful for learners.

During this 3 hour workshop, participants created their first simple circuit, played with pressure sensors, and programmed LEDS with Make Code ( and beginner Arduino coding). The coolest thing was that these teachers who might’ve been new to paper circuits or coding (or BOTH!) even started to tinker with coding by the end of the workshop!

The magic board in this workshop is Chibitronics new Love to Code board.  It is programmed through the audio jack and NO SOFTWARE is needed to program the board, so that makes it super AWESOME for teachers with different devices and/or teachers who can’t download software to devices.

Check out all the awesome stuff participants made during this ISTE workshop:

Participants even had time to test out the Chibiscope!

I’m hoping I can assist Jie with this workshop again because it combines my love of tinkering with circuits and the Chibi clip makes it so accessible for makers of all backgrounds.

Thanks to Patrick Ferrell, for inspiring me to write this post.  Check out one of his Chibi Clip experiments (and his other 98 ways to blink an LED):