We are continuing to pilot three Squishy Circuits in our district and this spring I was invited to use them with intermediate students at Homma and Blundell.
We opened with a short discussion around what the students already know about electricity. I then gave each group of three students a battery pack, 3 LEDs and a ball of conductive playdough and asked the students to examine the three components and then see what they could find out. The students usually place the LEDs in the ball of playdough, insert the positive and negative wires from the battery pack, turn the battery pack on then go hmmm, wondering why the lights don’t go on. It’s hard not to jump in but part of the inquiry process is for the students to problem solve and think through the different variables that could be the issue. Sometimes, if students seem really stalled and I think its because they might not have enough background knowledge, I sometimes prompt them to think about flow of electrons.
Once the first group of students gets the LEDs to light up, this sends off a reaction in the class and the students get curious about what others have done. A conversation about the concept of the “path of least resistance” is really important here for students to understand the flow of the current. Some students want to know more about series and parallel circuits and use the materials to investigate this. I pass out beepers and motors to add another opportunity for students to investigate different ways of creating circuits.
Once students see the possibilities of using squishy circuits, the creative possibilities open up.
More information about Squishy Circuits, including recipes for the conductive and insulating playdoughs, can be found here.