Our last Maker Monday workshop this summer was all about Squishy Circuits. If you’re not familiar with Squishy Circuits, they were created at the University of St. Thomas as a basic way to teach children about circuitry through (basically) play dough. Two types of dough are created – one is conductive, while the other is insulating. Then the rest of the materials you need are a basic 4 AA battery pack, some LEDs, buzzers and motors. We actually were able to purchase 10 kits from the Squishy Circuits Store website and they worked really well for our group of kids.
I started the program talking to the kids about what makes a circuit work using a light switch as an example. I also spent just a few minutes teaching the kids how to create a basic circuit using the play dough and the pieces of the kit and then I let them loose on the materials. The kids spent a solid 45 minutes really working with the kits creating circuits and exploring the materials. I was really impressed on how focused the kids were and even when something wasn’t working they kept playing around, asked a few questions and continued to work until they figured out the problems they were having.
A few caveats:
- The buzzers in the Squishy Circuit kits are really loud and abrasive sounding, so after the kids got to try them, we told them to focus on using the LEDs and the motor.
- You definitely don’t need one recipe of dough per kit. You could probably get away with one recipe of dough for every 2-3 kits.
- And I didn’t have time to show the kids possible examples of what to create, but the website has some great videos that you could use to show kids what is possible using the Squishy Circuits.
Overall, the kids really enjoyed exploring Squishy Circuits and it’s not a huge expense, especially if you just purchase a few pieces to get started and create smaller groups in a workshop format.
Our program is geared toward children entering 3rd – 6th grade in the fall. We only register 20 kids for the program because we only have 10 iPads and with technology and science programs, less is more. This is our second Maker Monday program of the summer featuring our iPads and the creation of stop motion animation movies that the kids created themselves.
We had about 18-20 kids show up, so there were 2-3 kids at each iPad working together to create their movie. We first talked about stop motion and what it takes to create a stop motion animated movie and then I really just let the kids loose! I ended up giving them about 40 minutes to work on their projects and in reality they probably could have worked for at least another hour. It took a lot of time for some of them to decide on a story line and plot using the options we had. I gave them the chance to use clay, Lego mini-figures, backdrops I created, and paper, crayons and other craft supplies. I was so amazed by how well the kids did and how much time they spent working on their projects. Usually, you’ll get that one group who finished their project in 5 minutes and doesn’t want to do anything else, but these groups tried a variety of different things and continued working on their projects and really thought creatively for cool solutions to problems. We used the iPad app – Smoovie – which was a free option, not too difficult to use and the kids were amazed to see their creations at the end of the hour. Like I said, if I offer this program again, I’d more than likely give them a couple hours to work on it, maybe offering time slots on a Saturday or day off from school to give them the time they really needed. Needless to say, the kids had a lot of fun and I enjoyed watching them work!
Our first Maker Monday was a lot of fun! Our program is geared toward children entering 3rd – 6th grade in the fall. We only register 20 kids for the program because we only have 10 iPads and with technology and science programs, less is more. I’m always a little anxious before starting these types of programs because I honestly don’t know a lot about these topics and fewer kids means we can focus on individual attention as some will need more help than others when trying something brand new, we’re also lucky enough to have 10 iPads in the library which allows for kids to work in pairs when we use the iPads.
I start some, if not all of my programs with a conversation with the kids. I want the kids to share with the group what they know about whatever topic we’re working on during the program. I usually have a few questions to pull information from the kids as needed, but the kids usually need very little prompting to share information. After we share the information, we dove into our coding for the afternoon.
Our first activity involved a grid of paper lying on the floor, I think I was able to fit a grid of 10 x 8 sheets of paper. We used a plastic gold coin as our “treasure” One of the kids volunteered to take directions from the group and I explained that you can move volunteer in four directions – forward, backward, left and right. (Make sure your volunteer faces the same direction throughout the activity) Then the kids took turns giving directions. A few times the kids gave bad directions which help showed what happens when your code is incorrect. After we tried a few times, I removed a few of the papers which created blocks and made the “programming” more difficult.
After we finished working on our large version of the grid, I gave the kids a piece of graph paper to create their own maze or partner with friends to repeat the exercise above by hand. I like offering these coding activities that don’t require technology because it helps the kids understand how coding works and what happens when the directions are incorrect.
Finally, the kids paired up to use the iPads and got the chance to spend about 20-30 minutes playing with a few coding apps including Daisy the Dinosaur, Hopscotch and Scratch Jr. I like offering a few options as the kids are at very different levels in their understanding of coding and their experience in coding as well. The kids did a great job of working together and sharing the iPads, no one wandered off task and started using other apps and I only had one instance where two boys were giggling and clearly up to no good. I had them delete the project they were working on and gave them a stern talking to and had no other problems.
Overall, I’m really happy with how the program worked out and the kids seemed to really enjoy themselves. Our next program is going to be a stop motion animation program which I’m pretty nervous about because it’s not something I’ve done before, but that’s part of the fun too.
I made some simple ducks using Microsoft Word shapes and the kids had fun adding up the ducks in different ways to always equal seven using the book Quack and Count by Keith Baker. I put them all in a line on our flannel board and I made sure to have a space between the ducks as we were counting them up: 6 ducks + 1 duck = 7 ducks. Maybe to make it even more math focused I could include a plus “+” sign and an equal “=” sign, but with a family storytime group I had kids of all ages, so what I did worked well with them.
I also spent a few seconds talking about what kind of shapes the ducks were made out of – and the preschoolers in the group were excited to share the different shapes they could find.
We just finished an 8-week session of math classes with Bedtime Math’s Crazy 8s Club for students in 3rd – 5th grades. I was a little worried that the kids would attend all eight weeks, but we registered 22 kids and had between 16-22 kids every week.
The Bedtime Math program is a FREE kit that can be ordered and has (most) of the supplies you need for 8 weeks of classes, each class lasting an hour long. The kids registered in our group were very smart kids, but we found out that they didn’t know a lot of the basics (like having difficult telling time on a an analog clock and understanding the tick marks on a ruler).
Throughout the eight weeks, the kids worked on measurement with toilet paper Olympics, telling time and using stop watches, probability with dice, and a lot more. The kids (for the most part) really enjoyed themselves and I think they learned a few things that can help them in their math work at school and at home. The great thing about this program is that everything is hands-on, there’s no filling out worksheets which the kids definitely love doing!
Overall, this was a very popular program that our library offered and we are looking at providing this again in the fall with either the younger audience (grades K – 2) or creating our own session for the older audience to participate again.