Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Simple Foil Circuits; Series and Parallel Circuits; Schematics

There are a lot of cool electronics kits you can get, and in fact we had been given some snap circuit kits earlier in the year, which I'd been saving for this unit---so we could have just started right in on those. I read lots of reviews on the snap circuits talking about how educational they were, and they ARE wonderful and we have loved them---but---my one problem with them is that they are somewhat far-removed from the actual workings of the electricity. By that I mean, all the actual wiring is enclosed in snap-able components, and while that makes for ease of use, it also makes the workings of the electricity somewhat more opaque (at least to me). I think once you understand what is going on, snap circuits are great, but for an introduction to circuits, I think there are better illustrations.

So, we started with what seems to me the very most basic form of a circuit: foil and a battery! (Here is a how-to video about foil circuits, if you need it.)
First we felt how the foil gets warm as a current passes through it
Then we added a tiny light bulb and watched it light up as electricity went through the circuit! (I will have a separate post about the materials we used for this unit.)
Next we set up circuits with batteries, bulbs, and alligator clips. We tried various configurations and learned about parallel and series circuits.
Parallel Circuit---note that the bulbs have the same brightness
Series Circuit---note the progressively dimmer bulbs as the current becomes weaker
The children also copied down a list of symbols used in wiring and circuitry schematics. They loved this---it's like a secret code!

Here are a few more resources for circuit symbols: down on this page to see how a seven-segment display, like you see on digital clocks, etc, works. Very interesting.

Here's a short video about circuits

Also, these circuit worksheets from Teachers Pay Teachers are fun.

And we thought this article about circuits in your house was really interesting!

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