Saturday, July 12, 2014

Squishy Circuits : Learning About Electricity Through Play

Hey readers! Miss Nicole here to update you on the rad happenings at the library! Today I held a "Squishy Circuits" program for 3rd-6th grade students as part of our Creation Station series of programs. Our Creation Stations focus on making and learning, and are funded through grant money we have received from The Stocker Foundation. I recruited a special volunteer helper for the afternoon, Mr. John. He is a personal friend who is an electrical engineer and I couldn't pass up having a real life electrical engineer come help the kids learn about electricity! If you think making play dough creatures is a good time, imagine the fun you can have when you add lights and motors.

Squishy Circuits is a project from the Playful Learning Lab at the University of St. Thomas. The goal of the project is to design tools and activities which allow kids of all ages to create circuits and explore electronics using play dough. Engineering students at the University of St. Thomas came up with easy to make recipes for conductive and insulating dough that make it fun to create sculptural pieces that you can than make into electric circuits. This allows you to adorn the dough with LED lights and moving parts. You can watch the founder of Squishy Circuits, AnnMarie Thomas, give a TED talk about the project on the website by clicking here. You can also find the dough recipes and various helpful videos for playing with Squishy Circuits at home on the site.

For the hour long library program, I ordered one kit from the Squishy Circuits store and also purchased some materials from Radio Shack. We began the program by asking the children some basic questions about electricity and went over some terms such as "circuit" and "conductivity". I also covered safety precautions and demonstrated a basic circuit. John demonstrated a light-up dough smiley face!
 

After our demonstrations, I let the kids loose to work at tables together creating basic circuits. After they successfully tested their basic circuit, I allowed them the remainder of the time to let their imaginations lead. Check out some of our Squishy Circuits! It was fun to watch the kids experiment and learn what worked and what would short circuit.






I sent the participants home with recipes to make their own conductive and insulative dough at home. Everyone said they had fun and some were even asking if I'd be doing another Squishy Circuits program in the future!

For more Squishy Circuits resources check out these websites:

 Makezine.com Squishy Circuits Project
 
Image from makezine.com
The Tinkering Studio Squishy Circuits

UCLA Beam Squishy Circuits Lesson Plan  (I used this PDF to help put together my own lesson plan and had the kids complete the included worksheet in the program.)

Sylvia's Super Awesome Maker Show- Squishy Circuits

Sparkfun.com Squishy Circuits


What are you waiting for? Hurry up and get to making your own Squishy Circuits! And of course, don't forget there are plenty of interesting books to check out here at the library if you would like to learn more about how electricity works and explore the science behind your Squishy Circuits.