Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Solar powered boats and circuits

A nearby power station came to run these two workshops with a group of home educated children at the farm where we meet regularly. My husband took our 2 elder boys along. Here are his thoughts ...

The focus of the day was electricity. Students were asked to build simple circuits consisting of a couple of wires, a battery pack and a bulb. While, on the whole, the girls waited for instructions, the boys just got all the components out of their plastic boxes and proceeded to build complicated circuits. They tested for conductors and insulators, used buzzers, switches and motors. They made 'jitter bugs' and, again, the boys ploughed in, not waiting for instruction. Despite the different learning styles, the learning outcomes were the same. I have been aware as a secondary maths teacher that boys generally learn in an entirely different way from girls, and the traditional style of explanations from the front suits boys less. Generally it was wonderful to see a natural love of learning and discovery through learning during these workshops. The activity in the afternoon involved designing a solar powered boat using milk bottles, rubber bands, a solar panel and a motor with a propeller. This was a fantastic activity where the kids learnt so much through trial and error, building on the things that they had learnt in the morning. People got very competitive. If only schools operated like this. Sadly, broken or incomplete kits and lack of resources make activities like this rare. And often there are time constraints at school. A whole day of fun science with highly motivated kids - I'm definitely going again.

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