#SayCircuits was a blast to implement at the #SpartansMake Maker Faire. My MAET colleagues and I successfully planned our faire with seven different stations in just over a week’s time. At our booth, participants created an electrical circuit; to understand how energy transfers from a source, through a path to the load.
When participants first came to our station, they took a photo at our photo booth. While they were waiting for their photo to print, they played with the LED light, copper tape and coin cell battery we provided. Participants were to build a complete circuit on the paper in turn creating an illuminated frame for their family photo taken at the photo booth.
Making a circuit was something new to me a little over a week ago. I knew about positives and negatives and how there needs to be a closed circle to make the ‘thing,’ or in our case the light, work. But I never had the experience of making it happen. And now, I had to teach it.
“We want our kids so engaged in projects that they lose track of time or wake up in the middle of the night counting the minutes until they get to return to school. Never before have there been more exciting materials and technology for children to use as intellectual laboratories or vehicles for self-expression” (Martinez, Stager 2014). This idea was so evident at our maker faire. I saw so many kids and families who struggled to make their circuit work, but persevered until it did. Families stayed at our station for up to 30 minutes and enjoyed themselves making their frames beautiful to showcase the fun day they shared.
The article, Making Matters! How the Maker Movement Is Transforming Education says, “Fortunately for teachers, the Maker Movement overlaps with the natural inclinations of children and the power of learning by doing” (Martinez, Stager). Children learn best by doing and my partner, Bridget Bennett, and I felt it was important to let the families play. However, I learned there needs to be some teaching and context of the task. With young participants, I found myself often asking “What do you notice about the legs on the light?” Almost always they could tell one was longer than the other and I was able to teach them the longer leg has to be connected to the positive side of the battery. This question showed the kids how they have to play around with their supplies and ‘do’ to learn and be successful with this activity.
“This blurring of boundaries [learning and schooling] is evident in events such as Maker Faires, where participants ranging from adult makerspace members to kids participating in robotics clubs come together to share what they have created” (Halverson, Sheridan 2014). When children, parents and grandparents came to our station it was amazing to watch them interact. With one another’s help, they figured out how to make their circuit work. And the best part, they didn’t realize they were learning. The boundaries were blurred and any age group could enjoy the making process.
Throughout the planning process, I learned how important it is to have a learning goal in mind. Without a goal for your audience, you lose focus for the activity.
The planning process shed light on how I can implement maker activities with my students. I learned how once you set a goal, you can pull tools that will enhance the content being taught. “But whether it’s a stone-age tool, a Guttenberg printing press, the simple crayon, or a high-tech digital simulation, any form of technology is a tool for living, working, teaching and learning” (Mishra, The Deep Play Research Group 2012). No matter the tool I choose to use to teach a concept, I am using technology. But the thing to remember when using technology is to let kids play, too.
The maker movement is allowing students to bring their original ideas to life. Students don’t often get the chance to show their individuality within the classroom. By allowing students to make and be free to fail forward after trial and error, they can learn more than sitting and listening to their teacher lecture.
When going back to school in the fall, I have a new mindset on making. I have the privilege of a makerspace in my school, but I feel like I can utilize it more because of this “illuminating” experience.
Check out the #SayCircuits infographic to get information on how to use this station in your classroom or your next Maker Faire!
Halverson, E.R. & Sheridan, K. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495-465. Retrieved fromhttps://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0T9DOVhrGV7S21ZWDljUGNpeHc/view
Martinez, S., & Stager, G. (2014, July 21). The maker movement: A learning revolution. Retrieved June 29, 2016, from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=106
Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. S. (n.d.). WeAreTeachers: Making Matters! How the Maker Movement Is Transforming Education. Retrieved June 29, 2016, from http://www.weareteachers.com/blogs/post/2015/04/03/how-the-maker-movement-is-transforming-education
Mishra, P., & The Deep-Play Research Group (2012). Rethinking technology and creativity in the 21st century: Crayons are the future. TechTrends, 56(5), 13-16. Retrieved from: http://punya.educ.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Mishra-crayons-techtrends1.pdf