Tinkering with Circuits

They started with four piles – power sources, simple loads, switches, and complex loads – and by the time their hour of tinkering had passed, our students were expertly connecting multiple circuit elements together, drawing circuit diagrams, and investigating how to make more complicated circuit elements like 7 segment LEDs and potentiometers work.  And they were excited!

Persistence is a core part of what it means for students to become makers and circuit blocks is a persistence builder.  All of the students run into circuits they don’t quite know what to do with.  For some it is using a switch in a new situation without any guidance.  But most  struggled with how to use a potentiometer – you see this is the first time they have encountered an electrical device that has three connections.  And so they stumble through it generally using trial and error until they figure it out for themselves and then, hopefully, start to figure out how they can use this new device the next time they are confronted with it.Making9-13 130

But they do it themselves – and that is the magic.  They learn to persist, build, and they learn about electricity and how it works.  We all have to build our own understandings and giving students the chance to explore invests them in understanding these ideas at a deeper level than if they were just given a task to complete.

This activity was brought to us through a collaboration with the Exploratorium Tinkering Studio as part of their vision to bring activities they use on the floor of the museum to classrooms in schools.  Through this partnership we have been able to use circuit boards in 3rd, 7th, 9th, and 12th grades – and learn quite a bit about how different ages engage with and learn from an open ended hands-on activity.  They will continue to bring new activities to Lighthouse in the coming months – and we look forward to sharing them with you!

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About Aaron Vanderwerff

Aaron Vanderwerff is passionate about engaging students in making and independent inquiry in the classroom, particularly students underrepresented in STEM fields. Vanderwerff currently oversees design and making programs at Lighthouse, which includes coaching teachers and facilitating professional development. This effort came out of his making class, which culminates in students exhibiting their independent projects at the Maker Faire. Vanderwerff has taught high school science in the Bay Area for the past ten years. Before joining Lighthouse, he taught ninth-grade physics and was science department chair at San Lorenzo High School, and taught math in the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso.