Electricity is a vital and key part of our daily lives. It is all around us, everywhere we go, transforming everything we do. So it is important that kids are given a solid foundation in electrical engineering projects. Today we are learning how electrical circuits work with lots of innovative hands on project ideas.
Experiments with Electricity
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Learning about electricity and circuits is an important part of a child’s education. Depending on where you live, learning about electricity can start as early as Grade 4 but often is covered more extensively in more advanced physics classes. As part of their electrical engineering studies students should learn the physics of circuits, which is best done with hands on experiments. This drastically improves understanding of these concepts rather than relying on memorization. So let’s dig into some fun hands on learning with electricity experiments.
What is a Circuit?
First we should start with the basics, What is a Circuit? When it comes to STEM projects, an electric circuit is a complete circular path that electricity flows through. A simple circuit consists of:
- a current or energy source like a battery,
- conductors which are often wires, but we have a few experiments that use innovative materials as conductors,
- a load which could be an LED light bulb or a buzzer or a fan.
Want to learn more about Circuits? Here is a great video from SciShow on YouTube.
Electrical Safety with Kids
Whenever we are working with electricity is very important that safety is part of the lesson and discussion with kids. Although these simple circuits with small charges are quite safe, students need to understand that electricity and electrical wires can be very dangerous. Never do any circuit projects with a child unless they are mature enough to behave safely and appropriately while working with electrical circuits.
Why Should Students Learn How To Build Circuits?
This simple circuit project is a fantastic introduction to circuit building for kids. But why should kids learn how to build circuits? There are actually several reasons why it is beneficial for kids to learn how to build circuits. Let’s explore!
Building Understanding of Technology
In today’s increasingly digital world, technology is all around us. Learning how to build circuits helps children understand the inner workings of electronic devices, such as smartphones, computers, and other gadgets. It gives them a deeper appreciation for technology and empowers them to become active creators rather than passive consumers.
Develop Problem-Solving Skills
Circuit building involves troubleshooting and solving problems. Kids learn to identify and fix issues when a circuit doesn’t work as expected. This process enhances their critical thinking, logical reasoning, and problem-solving abilities. They learn to analyze, diagnose, and find creative solutions, which are valuable skills in various areas of life.
Building circuits allows children to unleash their creativity. They can experiment with different components and configurations to create various electrical circuits and devices. This hands-on experience sparks their imagination, encourages them to think outside the box, and nurtures their innovative thinking skills.
Encouraging Scientific Inquiry
Circuit building involves applying scientific principles, such as understanding electricity, current flow, voltage, and resistance. It prompts kids to ask questions, make hypotheses, and test their ideas. By engaging in scientific inquiry and the scientific method, children develop a deeper understanding of scientific concepts and learn how to conduct experiments and analyze data.
Promoting Practical Application of Knowledge
Learning about circuits bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world application. Kids can apply concepts they learn in science or physics classes to practical projects. It provides a tangible and hands-on learning experience that reinforces their understanding and retention of concepts.
Building Patience, Persistence and Resilience
Circuit building can be challenging, especially when things don’t work as expected. Children learn to persevere through setbacks, develop resilience, and not give up easily. They learn that failure is a part of the learning process and that success often comes after multiple attempts. This mindset is essential for lifelong learning and growth.
Opening Doors to STEM Fields
Learning how to build circuits can spark an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). It exposes children to the foundational concepts of these fields and encourages them to explore further. By building a strong foundation in circuits, they may develop a passion for STEM-related subjects and pursue careers in these fields in the future.
Learning how to build circuits provides children with a wide range of valuable skills and knowledge that can benefit them academically, creatively, and professionally. It cultivates their curiosity, critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and prepares them for a technology-driven world. So let’s start building some circuits!
Classroom Circuit Project Supplies and Tools
A great thing to build for your classroom is a circuit kit which includes basic supplies for doing the majority of circuit projects. Many of these supplies and tools can be reused over and over again for future circuit projects and classes.
Wires with alligator clips
Battery cases with on/off switches
LED diode light bulbs
Small motors and accessories
Zinc and Copper Strips
Soldering Iron (for high school students doing advanced projects)
Plus recyclables such as TP rolls, cardboard, craft paper, craft sticks, etc.
Now we have chatted about circuits, let’s get busy with some hands on circuit making projects!
The Easiest Circuit Project
So let’s start with an incredibly easy circuit project. This simple circuit project is fantastic as a first project for younger kids. Using pencils and paper, kids create a basic circuit from a fun, kid-friendly design. So easy and so fun!
Building Batteries with Food
Did you know you can capture the energy of food and use it to power a light bulb? Building food batteries is a great project to do with the kids. Not only do they learn more about the foods that they eat, but they are also learning about circuits, how batteries work, and these projects have a BIG WOW moment as that light bulb lights up!
First, we have a lemon battery. This is a very easy project and a great one to get started with the kids on learning about electricity.
Next up, try making a pumpkin and squash battery. This is a fantastic fall project, and you can use your pumpkins to make batteries before you carve them.
Potato Electricity Experiment
For your older students who are looking for a bigger challenge, try making a Potato Battery. This is actually something scientists are studying as a possible energy source.
Now we have introduced you to the idea of making a battery out of foods, what other foods do you think you could make a battery from?
Simple Circuit Projects and Experiments
Glow Salt Circuit
A very simple circuit you can make with kids is a salt circuit. But we couldn’t just make a simple salt circuit, we powered it up by making a Glow Salt Circuit. We loved the activity so much we also make a Valentine’s Day Heart Circuit and a Christmas Tree Glow Circuit. All using the same concept and a little creativity.
Rainbow Salt Circuit
This Rainbow Salt Circuit activity was the very first salt circuit we ever made. It combines beautiful colours into a simple beginner circuit project.
Squishy Circuit Pumpkin
Another fun circuit project to do with kids is to make Squishy Circuits. In this project we made a fun Halloween Pumpkin Squishy Circuit which included making our own conductive and insulating doughs from scratch.
Squishy Circuit Anglerfish
Another version of the Squishy Circuit uses modeling clay and playdough, all easily bought at the store or probably already in your classroom supplies. So easy and so much fun!
TP Owl Circuit Craft
Here at STEAM Powered Family we LOVE owls! In this circuit project we made an Owl Craft out of a toilet roll, then powered it up with a simple circuit making project that lights up its eyes.
Mummy and Bat Circuit Craft
Easter Glow Candy Jar
In this circuit project we are exploring paper circuits to light up a beautiful candy jar for Easter. You can easily adapt this design to any holiday season or just because you want a gorgeous candy jar that lights up!
Olympic Torch Circuit Craft
This simple Light Up Olympic Torch Craft is a great project to do with the kids to celebrate the Summer and Winter Olympics.
Advanced Circuit Projects
Once you have mastered simple circuits, why not tackle something a little more challenging?
In this project we are creating a special wand inspired by the Harry Potter stories. This wand includes a special homemade on/off switch so your witches and wizards can cast Lumos and Nox!
Way back when STEAM Powered Family was just starting, one of the very first activities we shared was Circuit Bugs. This was a project we loved creating as a family and went on to become one of the most popular Circuit STEM activities on this site.
Combine chromatography and circuits in this Circuit Flowers STEAM activity where you create the most beautiful glowing flowers.
Build an Art Bot
Create art by making an art bot, or scribble bot. This circuit building activity is great for older students. We made our scribble bot look like a giraffe.
This is a festive Christmas tree twist on the popular Circuit Bugs and Circuit Flowers activity.
Buzz Circuit Game
For your teens that are looking for a really cool challenge or something they could build for a STEM competition or STEM fair, the Buzz Circuit Game is perfect! It is basically a homemade version of the popular Operation game. So cool!
One of our favourite ways to explore circuits for young and old is Snap Circuits. There are kits for all different types of interests and passions. My kids simply love exploring with their Snap Circuit sets. It is always out and ready to go in our tinkerspace.
Have a blast exploring with circuits!