Archive for March, 2014

creating littleBits circuits

Posted on: March 2nd, 2014 by jnovakowski

I spent some time on Friday in the grades 5 & 6 class at Garden City. This term, the students have been studying electricity as their science topic and their teacher Paula Zack (who is in for Liz Nasu who is on mat leave) thought it would be interesting to see what connections they made to what they learned about electricity as they investigated littleBits.

The students also discovered that the order of the littleBits did matter. At first they weren’t sure and this group was convinced that there button wasn’t working, until they changed the order of the littleBits. They explained that the information that needs to make something happen needs to come first (the button before the buzzer).
“The button doesn’t work if it comes after the buster, it has to come before the buzzer. Electricity doesn’t flow backwards.”

As students investigated and tested things out with the littleBits, I recorded several of the observations and comments the students made, revealing their developing understanding of electricity:

-there are metal prongs so when you snap littlebits together it completes the circuit
-the electrons flow from the battery
-the green ones all do something
-the power switch controls the flow of electrons 
-we found out the slide dimmer changes the sound of the buzzer
-the magnets only go in a certain way otherwise they won’t connect
-I close the circuit when I turn off the power switch

Some of the groups were very interested in the three-pronged fork bit and played around with changing the variables and bits attached to see how these changes affected different bits. They noticed that some bits were louder, brighter or moved more quickly when less bits were attached to the fork.

Because they need more energy.”
“Servo goes faster when you take other bits off.”

And after some experimentation, some students were still confounded by the purpose of the orange wires:
I still don’t know what this does!”

and then they realized they could use them to reach further with their circuit when they create things.

The circuits got more and more complicated as the session moved on…

One session with the littleBits was not enough and I could tell that the students’s synapses were firing in their brains with ideas of what they could create. Hopefully, the class will be able to book the district kit some time during third term.

Here’s a short Animoto video overview of this class’ first littleBits session:

I’m sure the students have lots of ideas for what they might create with the littleBits now that they know what they can do!

looking closely at snow and ice

Posted on: March 1st, 2014 by jnovakowski

I asked Jenna Loewen’s Grade 1 students at Garden City what they had noticed about snow during the week. We don’t get snow very often so the students were excited to tell me about making snowballs, forts, snowmen and snow angels. When I asked them more specifically about that they had noticed about the snow, they commented that it was white and cold.
We ventured outside to look closely at what remained of our big snowfall. Most of the snow had melted by Friday but we were still able to find patches of snow which made for interesting questions as to why some snow hadn’t melted yet.

I brought along a tub of magnifying glasses and loupes to help focus the students and take some time to actually look at the snow in some detail. I also had my olloclip macro lens ready to get some “zoomed in” photos. The students were also excited to find lots of ice outside.

Some students found some animal tracks in the snow and we looked across the field to find the likely matches – mallard ducks!

The students brought some ice back into the classroom and we used the zoom usb microscope to look closely at the ice. The zoomy magnifies things up to 43X so we got some really close looks at ice.

After looking closely at the snow and ice, we asked the students to share their observations and choose words to describe what they noticed…their descriptions had grown significantly from “white and cold” to: sparkly, watery, curly, shiny, crystals, golden, silver and the ice had smooth edges.

The students made some connections to some crystals they grew in their classroom:

With snow in the forecast again, maybe these students will get another chance to look closely at snow and see it from a new perspective.