Squishy Circuits is a hands-on way for students to explore electrical circuitry using simple, readily available materials including dough (conductive and non-conductive playdough), LED lights and batteries. Students can construct their understanding of electric circuits and even design and create their own inventions. Through a play based approach students can discover simple, parallel and series circuits and important concepts including conductivity, short circuits, voltage.
Hands-on, minds-on exploration of concepts, like electricity and circuitry, support a more inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning and are in keeping with BC Curriculum. Science content and curricular competencies can be supported through activities like Squishy Circuits. When students work together to co-construct their knowledge, they are naturally developing various core competencies including communication and critical thinking. Squishy Circuits can be used at many different grade levels depending on the curricular/learning purpose the teacher has in mind and the prompts provided for students to get started!
When provided with simple materials and perhaps a prompt or challenge, students can design, plan and carry out their own science investigations in keeping with an integrated ADST (applied design skills and technologies) approach. See this article in the National Science Teachers Association for further information about an investigative approach to science learning.
I have found that students can learn a great deal when provided with time and materials without ‘over prompting’. The teacher, as guide and facilitator, can provide “just in time” support to help students extend their learning. These prompts might include providing key vocabulary to help develop literacy within the subject/content area, they might also be to help propel or advance learning by helping students avoid ‘hitting a wall’.
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There are many ways for a teacher to get started with Squishy Circuits depending on your subject area and lesson objectives.
There is a Squishy Circuits kit available for borrowing from the UBC Education Library. Kits and materials can also be purchased through the Squishy Circuits website (they also have tutorials, quick start guides and dough recipes) or you can find electronics materials in bulk through electronics supply stores including RP Electronics in Burnaby or Lee’s Electronics in East Vancouver
You can make your own doughs or purchase playdough (naturally conductive due to water/salt content) and plastecine (non-conductive) at toy stores or dollar stores.
Once you have your materials, it’s time to plan for the learning!
Or, be a little more inquiry-oriented in your exploration. See Lynda’s blog for some ideas!
You and your students will likely start thinking about and looking for extensions once you’ve had a chance to play:
See also MIT’s Soft Circuits Guide for information about FABRIC circuits!!
Paper Circuits (make-and-take circuits using conductive copper tape – tape also available at local electronics stores or online)