After last week’s success with a semi-structured activity, we felt the kids were ready for a real-from-scratch-very-likely-to-fail-gadget making! The great thing about these kinds of projects (over kit projects) is that the students really develop a better understanding of basic electronics. The downside is that they don’t often work without many attempts and this can be extremely frustrating. How appropriate then that our topic for discussion today was: When Things Get Hard!
We brainstormed strategies of what to do when an activity is extremely difficult. Everyone had input on this: Jac stated “you can ask for help”, Cormac offered “try it a different way” and Dino said “take an engine break”. All great ideas! We also discussed how to support your friends when it seems they are struggling. Then I previewed the plan for the day: making a battery pack and simple circuit to light up a bulb and/or run a motor.
As the students set to work creating their circuits, I was really impressed with how focused they were on the task and their abilities to follow multi-step directions. After around 20 minutes of focused work (winding the copper wire into a spiral, wrapping tin-foil around the connecting points, carefully not allowing the wires to touch and short circuit..) the students were given their light bulbs and…. Surprise! None of the circuits worked. At this point we referred to our strategies for handling challenging activities. The students decided to take a break from the circuit and return to disassembling the Mac with Gudny while I tried to sort out our circuit issues. Dino returned to the circuit activity first and was able to create a working circuit with insulated wire. He was extremely pleased and showed all his friends. Jac also finished his circuit-showing great care in (as he said) “a very dangerous activity”. Both Dino and Jac took their gadgets home. Cormac never made it back to the circuit project- but I am hoping he picks it up again next session. He and Gudny did come up with a great idea for next week after playing with the remains of a iron : boat making!
I asked for “put-ups” today-everyone was impressed that Dino finished the circuit first and I think he felt really great with all the positive feedback. Not surprisingly, Cormac and Dino wanted to give their best/most frustrating moments (another post activity we often do). Eventually I am hoping to open up this time to general club feedback and we are getting very close to simply have a post-club conversation that is not so structured.
Sarah and Gudny