As an intern at the Tinkering Studio this fall, one of the tasks I am in charge of is to support weekends’ activities.
When I facilitated Paper Circuits this month, I noticed that some young visitors struggled using copper tape because it’s sticky and hard to make a clean fold even after a couple of tries. Sometimes, because of these challenges, their parents or guardians step in to help their children and occasionally took over the projects. After looking at a few challenges with copper tape, I was curious how to help young learners to lead their projects from the beginning to the end.
One day, I got the idea from a young visitor. A boy and his mother came into the Tinkering Studio, and they created their own paper circuits separately. After a while, the mother asked me to help her son who was making a nice car with two headlights. He had already completed one light with an independently closed circuit but was having a hard time connecting the second LED to the first one. To explain the concept of a parallel circuit, I brought a new coin cell battery and connected two LEDs onto the battery directly. At that moment, he got an idea and asked me “Could we do that for the second one? Without the tape?” I said “Yes, of course”, and he completed his project by himself.
He directly put the battery onto his car and two separate circuits perfectly worked well.
The car case provided me an inspiration to help young children who might have trouble handling copper tape.
On the last Sunday of October, I tried that way as a scaffolding for a young visitor. A young boy and his mother visited the Tinkering Studio and had an idea to make a pumpkin with shining eyes. They started to make the form of a pumpkin firstly and placed two LEDs onto the pumpkin. Then, they asked me how to connect the two LEDs with one battery. I asked them how about connecting LEDs to the battery without copper tape.
They liked the idea and even added one more LED for a nose successfully. I asked the boy if he was interested in making a more complicated one. He was excited to create a new one and made his second parallel circuit using copper tape and even a push switch!
It was a great experience to see his progress by expanding his understanding of the circuit and materials.
Through these cases, I have a personal interest in making tinkering activities accessible to younger learners. Thus, I will keep an eye out for future opportunities to make facilitation changes to accommodate for the young learners’ skills and abilities during the future collaboration with them.