17 preschoolers + play dough + circuits = a fun morning

December 21, 2012

By AnnMarie Thomas, Maker Ed

My daughter as one of the pilot testers for Squishy Circuits, back in ~2010.

Makers helping makers, young and old, is at the heart of the Maker Movement. The Maker Ed blog has had wonderful posts from makers who are teaching young makers. (Some of these “Maker mentors” are young makers themselves!) When people ask me how to help young makers, I always point out that one of the best places to start is by sharing your excitement and skills with the young makers, and young-makers-to-be, in your own life.

As the mother of two daughters (ages 2 and “almost 5”), I know first hand how much fun this can be! I thought I’d take a moment to share a story of my own experiences teaching young makers.

Yesterday I got to be in “Maker Mom” mode as a visitor to my daughter’s preschool class to do a session on circuits. We had 17 preschool participants for a 45 minute session. (I say “we,” because I was fortunate enough to have my daughter as a teaching assistant.) The session started with a short introduction to some of the concepts and words related to electricity by discussing with them how the lights in the classroom work. Then we donned our safety glasses and jumped in! We did two activities:

(1) a long (~25 minutes) session on Squishy Circuits

(2) a short (~5 minutes) chance for them to turn into a piano using a Makey Makey

Typically, when I do Squishy Circuits at events I bring conductive and non-conductive dough. However for this session I brought just conductive dough to simplify the setup and explanations a bit. We start with a basic LED circuit, and I use some playfully terminology to get us started. (LEDs look a lot like people– so we give them play dough feet! If the LED is inserted in the wrong direction, we say the LED has his feet in the wrong shoes, and swap them. An old video of me explaining the way I teach squishy circuits to little circuit builders can be found here.)

After everyone was able to make an LED light up, we started adding buzzers and more LEDs. (I definitely noted that next time I should offer earplugs to the classroom teachers!)

I’ve never done Makey Makey explorations with large numbers of kids, so I preloaded my computer with the Scratch code for a Makey Makey piano, and had the kids bring their lumps of playdough up in groups. We then plugged them into the Makey Makey (similar to what is shown in this video, but replacing the bananas with play dough) and made music by holding hands.

I still have a lot to learn about leading a group of 17 preschoolers the week before holiday break, but based on what I heard from the teachers and parents, the kids were all pretty proud of having made their own squishy, noisy, light-up creations. My own daughter was delighted to have had the chance to share the activity with her classmates and to be a teacher, even briefly.









2 responses to “17 preschoolers + play dough + circuits = a fun morning”

  1. Jane Snell Copes Avatar

    Sweet! Glad you had a fine time . . . how could you not? JSC

  2. http://tinyurl.com/elecgibbs00140 Avatar

    Ur article, “17 preschoolers + play dough + circuits = a fun morning | The
    Maker Education Initiative” was worth writing a comment down here
    in the comment section! Really wished to
    mention you did a good work. Thanks for your time ,Monique

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