Brandy and I had the chance to volunteer at Sunday with the Scientists, a program sponsored by the University of Nebraska State Museum. The program allows kids to come and have hands on experiences with science and technology. As you can see from the picture on the left, I worked with the alligator clamps and Lilly Pad technology to teach kids how to make simple circuits. Using alligator clamps, the kids would use a battery to connect to various colored LED lights. For kids who were interested, they were also shown how to make a parallel circuit, and how microchips could be introduced to the circuit to control how the lights operated.
Another activity presented was Squishy Circuits. At this station, kids used conductive dough to light up LED lights. Kids learned about conductive versus insulating materials. The dough functioned as wire, allowing younger kids, especially ones with less find motor skills a hands on experience with circuits.Kids were able to explore how pressing the various types of dough together would either allow the current to flow, or prevent the current from flowing. Batteries were once again used to power the the LED lights, and kids learned the difference between positive and negative power affect the flow of electricity.
As an added bonus, the local news station, KLKN Channel 8, had a reporter on site getting interviews with the kids and even some of the volunteers. You can hear my voice as I explain some of the steps to making the circuit work, and there’s even a clip of video with me in it. It’s great to see the local news stations taking an interest in these events, showing the efforts UNL students are taking to bring real, meaningful educative experiences to students when they’re not in the classrooms.
Check out the video here.
Just before New Years, Brandy and I participated in our second program with the Lincoln Children’s Museum (LCM). This lesson was part of the Full STEAM Ahead program run by the LCM. As part of a 3 day camp, kids engaged in various STEAM related activities, classes, and exhibits.
Our lesson was modified from the HS Prototyping with Rockets lesson developed as part of our Science Literacy curriculum. The challenge was creating an experience for the kids that was simple enough for them to grasp, but challenging enough for them to learn. Prototyping is an abstract concept, challenging for my undergrads to readily grasp. Finding a way to explain the concept to kids with the average age being 8 pushed me to think in new ways. I kept thinking about it in terms of creating, teamwork and imagination. All of those are concepts easier to explain to kids.
Working in groups, kids collected recyclable materials to create their rockets. Working in groups gave them the opportunity to collaborate, to combine their ideas in order to come to the best possible solution. Of course, some kids were more resistant than others to group work, some wanting to make their own rockets. The thought behind the recyclables was to also expose kids to the idea of reusable materials, showing them how to reuse everyday household items for creative purposes. For educators, the recyclables are a way to keep the cost of the activity to a minimum, and allow students to be active in the cultivation of materials for the lesson.
Several of the rockets were imaginative, and some struggled through the teamwork aspect of working in a group – and often, their rockets reflected this. Overall, the kids had a great time and were exposed to new vocabulary, many using the word prototyping correctly and being able to describe what the process entailed.