Last year, I was inspired to hack a project that our school's grade six students had worked on for a few years running. This project's main goal was to have students showcase their understanding of curricular expectation 2.2 in Understanding Matter and Energy: students will design and build series and parallel circuits, draw labelled diagrams identifying the components used in each, and describe the role of each component in the circuit.
For many years, all students created the same electrical circuit quiz board (albeit on different topics) to demonstrate their learning. In this project, several key expectations in the grade six science curriculum were met. While a valuable hands on experience for students, this project did not capitalize on providing students with differentiated content or the opportunity to create learning products according to their interests or skill-sets. In addition, there were few opportunities to develop the literacies and competencies students need in order to succeed in the 21st century.
In collaboration with the grade six team, we developed a website that students could explore that showcased a variety of different circuits that students could make to show their understanding of this expectation. We also structured the site and their learning process in such a way that additional expectations in reading, writing and oral language could be addressed.
Upon reflection, and as I continue on my maker journey, I have come to realize:
1) We missed a wonderful opportunity to present this learning experience in a problem based learning design. What if we framed their learning in this context?
Make an electrical circuit that performs a function or serves a purpose for yourself, or someone else in need.
I wonder how this statement alone could have impacted the learning process - both theirs and mine.
2) Most of the materials students had to use to create their own circuits were fairly accessible and inexpensive. We purchased some Chibitronics kits for our school for students to create their own paper circuit designs. They are great - however - they can be costly. I have just learned how you can create your own paper circuits with materials that are even less expensive.
You don't need to spend a lot of money to get started with paper circuits. All you really need is scotch tape, aluminium foil tape (you could even use aluminium foil), a LED light, some card stock and a coin cell battery. I tried it myself by making a light up bookmark. I had my doubts that I could actually make this work, BUT I DID IT! I'm always pleasantly surprised (ok I'm a lot proud of myself) when I can actually get these ideas of mine to work.
I wonder - if I'm proud of myself for making that little light bulb go on - what could this mean for the self esteem of our students given a supportive and encouraging learning enviornment? There were some blips to be sure, as there will be in class - I wonder how do we encourage the maker mindset in our students? How do we facilitate and instill a sense of well-being around mistakes and learning? That mistakes are ok and are a natural part of learning? How do we get our students (and teachers for that matter) place the focus on the learning PROCESS rather than the product? Yes, the light went on (in more ways than one) - but what were our key understandings in order to make this happen?
And I wonder how can we extend this learning beyond just science? Certainly, I can immediately see the curricular connections to science, but what if we got our students to try something like this? What else could we try?
Read this post that highlights how another class illuminated their poetry.
The lights are on in my mind ..... and everyone is home.