I got to be part of the group who had a blast working with Squishy Circuits today. Using an analogy about making your way through a middle school hallway, Sam introduced us to the concept of an electrical current. Electricity always, she said, likes to take the path of least resistance. Then she brought out the conductive and non-conductive dough, and things started getting exciting. She demonstrated how to light up an LED using the dough and a battery pack to create a circuit, and she also explained the difference between series and parallel circuits. Then, in pairs, the makers got to try creating their own circuits.
Most students began with mimicking the same circuits that Sam made, but once they learned that their circuits could also light up the LED, they started getting more adventurous. I saw Squishy Circuit turtles, snakes, a Christmas tree, a hot dog, and more. While most students seemed to grasp the concept of a circuit, their understanding became most evident when their creations didn't cause the LED to light up. I found that most pairs of students could articulate what the problem was when asked to diagnose on their own: "Ohhh," one student said "I bet it's not working because the two colored pieces are touching and the electricity is sneaking out!" Playing with the conductive and non-conductive dough also gave them a very hands-on sense of the difference between series and parallel circuits. As we had students take pictures of and label their circuits using iPads, I heard one student say, "This was fun, but now I wanna make really cool stuff next week!"