Because our middle level learners are ready for more independence, age-appropriate challenges, and they crave mastery of skills, we need to teach them differently. Middle level learners need to spend less time memorizing content and more time developing skills. They need to imagine more, choose more, produce more so that they like school more. A skill-centered curriculum, using content as a vehicle for skill development, is the future of middle level education.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Squishy Circuits: Hands on Electricity

Squishy Circuits uses conductive playdo to allow kids to build their own circuitry. It’s a masterful tool for helping kids learn the basics of experimental science. Because it allows for constant trials and revisions using manageable materials that produce immediate and engaging results, kids can exercise their deductive reasoning skills while they play. Kids in the middle years can take advantage of Squishy Circuits attributes, but it's particularly great for elementary aged kids. 

Each set comes with a 4 AA battery pack, many different colored LEDs, a motor, and two sound outputs. The only thing that is missing is the wires to connect them: you have to make that!  Recipes for the conductive dough comes with the set. There is also a recipe for insulating dough, which lacks the salt and citric acid of the conductive dough.

This is where the tactile comes in. Kids roll and mold the dough that has been mixed- and colored- into shapes that can support the circuit elements. The leads off the battery pack are inserted into the dough and voila, circuitry- provided the basic rules of circuitry have been followed: that’s what they explore.

The pleasure young children experience with this is immense. The squishiness has that tactile appeal of playing in the mud and the electrical outputs provide a wow factor. The maleability of the medium allows for constant experimentation and revision- not to mention the stimulating squeezing and rolling that little kids will do with something flexible in their hands.

Besides the fundamentals of a circuit, the sets provides great ways to demonstrate current flow- the LEDs are one way- and resistance. Invariably, kids stick multiple LEDs in their dough and can see how those further down the line receive less electron flow. 

A good preview of a kid’s spin on Squishy Circuits can be found at . For a more more intellectualized examination, check out the TED talk by Annmarie Thomas:

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