Circuits


Electric circuits come into the Victorian Curriculum under ‘Physical Science’ in Years 5 and 6. Before that, light and sound is investigated in Years Prep – 2 and heat is explored in Years 3 and 4. Teaching circuits can also link closely to Critical & Creative Thinking Curriculum. 

Actually creating circuits has a huge impact on the level of understanding students have. Drawing and discussing is important but being able to tinker, investigate and create with circuits provides an engaging environment where deep learning takes place. 

Adding elements of circuits into other Makerspace projects is a great idea. I did a 3D printing project with Year 4 students for which one student made a mini basketball hoop. She decided to incorporate space for an LED light and battery in her design. This provided the perfect opportunity to take this ‘teachable moment’ and for her to learn a bit about circuits. She then taught others who chose to extend themselves and incorporate LEDs into their own designs. 

Recommendations

  • Keep it simple. I do recommend products such as Little Bits and Makey Makey but simply wire, batteries and LED lights work really well and can be used to create some amazing things using both series and parallel circuits.
  • Empower students by extending them so they can teach others
  • Teach the vocabulary around the  scientific concept you are teaching as you are teaching it, this way students will make connections and have a deeper understanding about what is happening
  • Encourage trial and error and challenged-based learning

Project Ideas

Makey Makeys
These can be used to create so many things! Over the years I have created fruit, wood, human and water pianos as well as dance mats and computer game controllers. They are easy to pick up for students in Years 3 – 6 and are good for younger students in small groups. The only issue with Makey Makeys is the science behind the circuit is a bit difficult to understand and is not as transparent as a simple wire, battery, LED circuit. They are fun though and there are lots of interesting ideas on how to use them on the Makey Makey website.

Squishy Circuits
Conductive play dough is easy to make and can be used to create squishy circuits. Here is a recipe. If you forget to use the right kind of salt (which I did the first time!) then students can still make the squishy creatures light up using hidden wires.

‚ÄčI have taught squishy circuits with varying levels of difficulty/scientific explanation with Years Prep – 6.

Wearable Tech (Years 5 and 6)
Students created light-up wearable tech designs for our Young Minds of the Future project. Some of these included a light up dress (pictured left) and a jacket for a bike rider with light-up indicator arrows on the back.