I love that my girls are learning something that I know nothing about -- electronics. Even more I love that they are learning it in a way that makes sense. To me electronics is like a foreign language. It has roots and basic truths that must be learned in order to build further knowledge and understanding. You would not expect to travel to Italy and become fluent after one lesson right? I would not expect my children to create something electronic without giving them basic building blocks first.
We began our study this summer with snap circuits. Through snap circuits they learned what electricity is, what it can do and what it cannot do. They learned how to build a circuit and what to look for if the circuit did not work. They learned about the flow of energy and what a battery is and does. Through snap circuits, Grace discovered that she really has an interest in this area and despite feigning indifference, Lilah really enjoys it too!
Moving on from snap circuits the girls learned how to properly use tools required for electronics by dismantling a “clean” laptop. I wrote a blog post about how they did this. An old broken piece of equipment can keep a child busy for hours. However, if they were to do this activity with me, I would not be able to answer the zillions of questions they would have such as “what is this?” “what does this do?” “how does this work?”. Having an expert work with my children is a vital key to their understanding. The girls just received a kit of teeny tiny screwdrivers, magnetic pieces and levers of their very own from their Grandfather. They can’t wait to try them out.
Step three in their journey was each receiving a Kinetic Creature kit to assemble. These are fabulous motorized creatures made from sturdy cardboard and balsa wood. Like any kit, once it is assembled, it is done. What if you had the capability to reproduce the kit over and over again for further use and learning? The girls learned how to do this very task. They learned how to shade over each piece of the kit, like one would do to make a leaf rubbing. They traced the shape using very fine point mechanical pencils and then using a light box, lined the two pieces of paper, the rubbing and the tracing up and drew the shape onto tracing paper. The tracing paper was then photocopied thus becoming the “master” image for that piece of the motor. This was repeated until every piece had a “master” copy. This is time consuming, detail oriented work.
These masters will be used to make transfers of the shape onto cardboard where they will practice their cutting skills using exacto knives and then onto balsa wood which will produce the replica piece.
While this work is taking place the girls are assigned homework. Right now they are to watch every simple machine video on Brain Pop and answer questions that have been prepared for them. They have been watching videos on youtube about gears and gear ratios and torque. This will all be useful when they begin to build the motor in a few weeks.
I love this time of learning. There is no pressure, no stress. The kids work for hours not because they have to, but because they want to. Typically they work for 2 hours at a time and even then sometimes they are willing to work more. Watching your child learn something that is 100% interest led is fascinating. It is not work at all to them. It is like play. Really smart play!