In our Kindergarten and First Grade Summer School classes, we’ve been working with Little Bits, a kit of electronic modules that snap together with magnets for prototyping. The Little Bit kit we are working with allows for the children to combine the “bits” with household items to create endless project possibilities. Some example of the items in the kits include a power chip, batteries, cables, bend sensor, motion trigger, bright led, wires, and more.
This project allowes children to have the opportunity to explore, observe, hypothesize, question, and discuss to clarify their understand, and to create a tangible final product.
At first the children explored the materials, learned their names, meanings, purpose, and position. We started the new project by experimenting with the circuits and testing how to make a light, buzzer, and fan work. After each child became comfortable with the parts and components of the general project, together we decided that five teams would work on five different projects.
One particular team began making a spinning spoon, and when asked what else we could make that would spin, they answered, “ a carousel”. We were pleasantly surprised and impressed by this idea! One by one, they discussed what animals each group member would make and created assignments and deadlines for each person in the group. At first, some group members were tasked to make three animals while other group members were tasked to create only one or no animals. After they realized the uneven distribution, they decided that each group member was going to make the same amount of animals without repeating an animal. One child counted each group member by 2’s and came up with the number eight. (Each group member was going to make two animals since there were four people in the group.) After finalizing the logistics, they typed the complete plan onto a Word document on our computer.
Below are a few images of this particular group working in the art studio on their final animal pieces for the carousel. They found it difficult to create the drawings on small pieces of paper using only watercolor and fine tip markers (materials the group decided they would create the animals with). It was a wonderful challenge for them.
Another group of children decided they wanted to create a cluster of rocket ships that will rotate in a circle. In the photos below you can see the group members creating 3-dimensional rocket ships using various materials and decorating each ship. One of the team-members struggled to create cones to act as wings for the rocket ship. We encouraged him to try using a glue-gun at a low temperature setting. After a few attempts, he mastered the glue-gun and created a set of perfect cones.
Another group is planning to create a treasure chest that will light up when the top is opened. The children strategized during the planning process. During the first stages of the planning, they decided to create a 3-D model of what the chest will look like.
Our goal with this project is to allow children to tap into their creativity while using electronic materials. The world is based on technological advances, instant communication, and innovative ideas. In order to become fully developed members of society, children need to experiment, explore, and invent with technology!
This project also allows children to express themselves in a different way, take some control over the direction of their learning, and fostered problem solving among peers.
The most amazing part of this project is that we simply presented the materials to the children. They came up with the ideas to create a carousel, rotating rocket ship and light-up treasure chest. In addition, they are the ones who figured out what materials we would need, designed the layout, connected the circuits and figured out the problems that occurred along the way. We didn’t give them a step-by-step worksheet that required a certain process. They did this on their own!