Troubleshooting while Learning about Electrical Energy Transfer

Often I explain energy usage as having this negative component. We talk about nonrenewable resources and their strain on our planet. While that is true, it’s also important to teach that the actual invention of electrical energy is a pretty cool thing! The hard part is how we humans use (or abuse) the resources that become a hazard to the health of planet Earth.

Today in distance learning, we opened up an activity to see how electrical energy transfers to kinetic energy, by building a simple motor. (I purchased kits on Raft: https://www.raftstore.net/s.nl?search=Simple+Motor+Plus+10. I had looked at other models online; This model was the most cost-effective for buying 28. Batteries were not included.)

Overall this was a wonderful learning experience. Following my motto this year of slow it down, I released the sense of urgency, allowing me to work at a 4th Grade leveled pace, therefore escaping the possible frustrations that may arise.

I prefaced this build by saying this activity would test our fine motor skills as well as our stamina in troubleshooting. We worked on this together for 90 minutes (which normally I would have broken up into small groups after 30 minutes, but the students voted to stay together as a whole group). We did not finish the build. Again, without that sense of urgency, we discovered we are comfortably right where we need to be. I let students know that if they wanted to continue troubleshooting on their own that they were welcome to move forward.

While building the simple motor together, I kept the instructions up on a shared screen. I also attached the instructions to an assignment on Seesaw, where students could access them at any moment. I switched off my share screen when I wanted to “spotlight” what I was building along with them.

Throughout the build I encouraged students to share where they had successes in following the instructions, as well as share where they were having difficulty. The majority of students were cooperative and kind, the others were simple quiet.

The Pros outweigh the Cons on this lesson and build. The Cons are that students work at different paces and when a student moves fast it takes a great deal of patience to wait for others. Another Con is that this was a long time on Zoom. While it was fun, we were all fatigued. Another Con is that it takes a bigger budget to purchase a kit for each student. If this was pre or post COVID-19, groups of 4-5 students would work together using 1 kit.

The Pros are that we were learning together and from each other. Students had a voice and could speak freely. Students were not relegated to book work or flat assignments, as well as they did not have to build on their own, encouraged by their peers.

Adding on to this post: I did this build with my 5th Graders today. We were able to get through the whole design, and a few students had success getting the coil to spin! There were very proud.

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