It’s Electric!

When I was little, I had an “electric” map of the U.S. There were two wired probes, and the object of the game was to use them to connect the name of the state capital from a list in the margin with a state on the map. (This was long before computer games!) If the match was correct, a light bulb lit up. I played for hours. There was another overlay with a list of state birds, and I noticed that they were in the same order as the names of the cities (in other words, if the first city on the list was Richmond, the first bird on the list was a cardinal, both matching to Virginia). I was intrigued by my discovery–how did this work? So I took it apart and saw how the circuits were designed on the board. Rather than being angry, my dad suggested that we put it back together and make some additional lists with state flowers, nicknames, etc. But I was hooked on learning more about electricity (as well as geography).

The featured articles in this issue focus on real experiences with electricity, and if this topic is part of your curriculum, they are must-reads. This months Science 101 column, What’s Really Going On in Electric Circuits has background knowledge for teachers in a concise format. And the Safety First column, Getting Wired on Safety* will help you make students’ explorations safe as well as engaging. This month’s Formative Assessment Probe, When Equipment Gets in the Way*, examines some of the misconceptions students may have, especially if their experiences are limited to kits or simulations with extraneous materials that interfere with understanding the basic concepts (an example in the article is the use of sockets, battery holders, and switches that are not essential to an electric circuit.

Static Electricity: The Shocking Truth* has lesson ideas to help our youngest scientists explore static electricity. It’s Electric features trade books on the topic and two related activities: Toy Take-Apart for grades K-2 and Musical Greeting Cards for grades 3-5. There’s also a page that shows the connections for these activities between the science Framework and the Common Core standards. [SciLinks: Static Electricity, Electricity]

Learning the Ropes with Electricity has a 5e lesson that gets students up and moving in a simulation of electric currents. The authors of Supercharging Lessons with a Virtual Lab* describe how they complemented a hands-on activity with simulations, concluding that “the use of virtual tools does have a place in exploration and concept development, but these simulation tools may not be as useful as first-hand, multisensory experience.” Sounds like a topic for action research! (Unfortunately, I did not see the name or URL of the simulation in the article). [SciLinks: Current Electricity, Batteries]

You might want to review the article Shoe Box Circuits from the December 2009 issue. In this inquiry-based science project, students work in pairs to design and wire a shoe box “room” to solidify their understandings of electricity and gain a better understanding of the ways in which electricity concepts are related to the electrical circuits in their homes.

Three articles in this issue look at a different kind of connection—our relationship with the outdoors. Get Connected has a 5e lesson on observing, describing, and mapping the physical and biological components of the schoolyard with Google Earth. [SciLinks: Mapping]  The interdisciplinary project How Much Trash Do You Trash?* evolved from a class discussion on solid waste management. [SciLinks: Waste Management] Both articles feature resources that can be adapted to your school and situation, including examples of student work. The authors of Bat Bonanza* introduced kindergarten students to these fascinating animals through models, field guides, and photographs.[SciLinks: Bats]

* Many of these articles have extensive resources to share, so check out the Connections for this issue (March 2013). Even if the article does not quite fit with your lesson agenda, there are ideas for handouts, background information sheets, data sheets, rubrics, and other resources.

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One Comment

  1. Peggy Ashbrook
    Posted March 25, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    My mother had a states-and-capitols game like yours, that her father made for her. We loved playing the game too, and could see the wires on the underside of the wooden board lid. Since they weren’t hidden we could see the way it worked when we opened the box.

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