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02 June 2014

3 Gr5 Inquiring About Circuits with Makey Makey!

Today was a new chapter in the development of our makerspace at our school!  Prior to today, we've been using it to stimulate creativity in our school utilizing recycled materials to create prototypes and design projects.  It's a great space and it is working really well with our English department in helping students think "outside the box" on their assignments.  However, now that the space is about to celebrate it's first birthday, we felt we needed to push it even more by jumping feet first with programming and designing.

We bought some Makey Makey kits last year and have been looking for ways to thoughtfully incorporate them into our curriculum.  We've identified a unit in grade 8 where the students will be using them to make games/ interactive programs with Scratch.  To get the grade 8 students ready, we created a display about Makey Makey and Scratch in a common space in our Learning Center.  The students have been investigating this display for about 2 weeks.  Recently a grade 5 teacher asked if we could use the Makey Makey kits to explore circuits for the electricity unit starting this week.  We've identified this as a unit that we wanted to integrate technology into so it was great to see that we were in the same line of thinking as the grade 5 team.  We met with the teachers and soon decided that Makey Makey would be an excellent provocation into the world of circuits to help students understand insulators and conductors.

We started the session letting the students explore the Makey Makey boards with the purpose of answering the question "What will make Makey Makey work?".  We had set up the computers ahead of time with three different examples of Scratch programs: Makey Makey DJ, Makey Makey Piano, and Makey Makey Drum Kit.  Each group was asked to find materials around the lab that would get the program to run.  When they found something that worked, they had to send someone to the front to write the item(s) on the board for others to see and test as well.  The only "clues" they were given were that one cable needed to be grounded to the Earth part of the Makey Makey and that the other end of that cable needed to be in their hand.

Students investigating what makes a Makey Makey work with found materials in our Imagine Lab via Instagram http://ift.tt/1m5TGyQ

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You can see in the photos above and below that the students found many things to try and soon figured out that metal objects worked.  They also started connecting the cables to one another as well as many cables to one object to get their program to run.  The whiteboard was soon full of many different objects in the "works" category including: wood, cloth, styrofoam, and paper.  At this point, the class teacher and I discuss what our next stage in the inquiry was going to be and decided on stopping for a reflection point with the class.  We circled the objects that we knew were in the wrong headings and called them together to review what they found so far.  After a brief discussion about their procedure and steps they were taking, they realized that they weren't being "scientific" when they connected more than one object or more than one cable at a time.  In addition, we asked them if they were being "scientific"if they only tested the object once with one group member.  They all agreed that they needed to refine their procedure and re-test the objects that we had circled for "re-testing".  Off they went inquiring again!

Students reflecting on their observations half-way through and re-testing suspect results via Instagram http://ift.tt/1nYO9P6

With the re-testing in full swing the class teacher and I soon noticed that most of the students were realizing their mistake which was that they were touching the metal clips with their hands while they were connected to non-conductive materials.  As their finding of their mistake quickly spread from table to table, the students found much success with metal objects and nothing else.  To provoke them farther, the teacher and I set out some wet sponges as well as some lemons for the students to inquire about (see photos below).  With these new objects came new discoveries as well as mis-conceptions.  Some students thought that the dishwashing soap on the sponges and the acid in the lemons were what was making the circuits work.  When confronted with the idea by another student that people made the circuit work, they were all a little bit confused!  They suggested that perhaps we had "electricity in us" but they knew that couldn't be the case!  It took about 5 minutes and then one girl at a table shouted "water" to which many more students began echoing "yeah!".  The whole class soon concluded that people, lemons, and sponges all have some type of water in them to make the circuits work!

Students investigating more provocative objects to understand what conducts electricity via Instagram http://ift.tt/1m5TH61

As a final wrap up, the students reviewed what they learned with the teacher and summarized it as this:

  1. To be scientific you need to test one thing at a time.
  2. To be scientific you need to test items more than once.
  3. Objects that are metal or wet will make a circuit work.
  4. Objects that are non-metal and dry will not make a circuit work.
To conclude their time in the imagine lab with the Makey Makey boards, the class put to the test another discovery which was that a chain of people can also make the circuit work.  They had a great time all touching hands to get the Makey Makey DJ to play "I like to move it!"

As a follow up to this provocation, the teacher plans on giving the students an investigation homework to find out what materials that make the circuits work are called and those that don't make it work are called.  She is also going to have them make connections between what they did in class and use the vocabulary that they find in the homework to put everything in context and begin their work for the circuits unit.  The kids were really excited to go home and find out more about circuits and Makey Makey, that's for sure!

Have you used Makey Makey boards in your lessons?  Is so, how have you used them to guide inquiry with students?  What grades have you found like Makey Makey the most?

Looking forward to your comments!
Jessica :)


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TechInfoKnow said...

Great news for your school.

Best of luck.

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