Introducing LEDs and Bright Fun to Your Students!


LEDs, or their long name, “Light Emitting Diodes” offer a great deal of cheap, impressive fun in a classroom or Maker Space. We’ve used LEDs with students as young as third grade with great success. Students can explore and create incredible projects once they understand the basics of LEDs. Using SMD LEDs offers many learning opportunities for exploring circuits, trial and error and persistence. Plus, they’re inexpensive…a bonus when you get big results without blowing your classroom budget.

When first exploring LEDs, I was intimidated. My first order from Sparkfun arrived and I couldn’t get the LEDs to work. As it turns out, I didn’t have the LEDs removed from the packaging correctly {true story!}. The first time I placed the LED onto the copper tape it lit up like magic. I was hooked. I wanted to light up everything in sight. It was like a new toy. What else could I make glow?

Completed 3D Washington Monument. It glows red like the real one {Safety first. I think so planes don’t hit it!}.

We’ve been using these powerful little lights mostly to enhance paper projects. We enjoy using them because of their low power consumption and long life span. They have great luminosity and can brighten a dark room. LEDs are great for teaching polarity because the energy can only flow one way through the light. They’re powerful and impressive. And kids love them.

Even Leprechaun’s are rumored to love LEDs!

After my own trials {ahem, having fun}, I was ready to bring them to the Maker Space. I started the students off with some holiday cards that had a template to follow. We created one where Rudolph’s nose glows and the other a Christmas Tree. Then we got crazy. We created a light-up, pop-up 3D glowing Valentine’s Day card. We built a 3D Washington Monument that lights up like the real deal! We made a simple St. Patrick’s Day card for younger students. And we keep exploring…most recently we created a Spring Card that has two switches. So.Much.Fun.

 

Experimenting with LEDs. How many can you light up at once and for how long?

The kids enjoy it as much as I do! I have had middle school students have great success. Once they grasp the basic understanding of parallel circuits, how to make switches and comprehend what a short circuit is, they incorporate them into their own projects.

We’re now experimenting to determine how long 14 LED lights will stay lit off of a coin cell battery. They were still glowing after an hour. With this new information, we hope to incorporate these LEDs into light up constellations that can be made into an interactive bulletin board where a student can press a button and see the constellation light up! We’ll keep you posted!

Air Pressure Experiments (IV): The Big Can Crush

I have a series of air pressure experiments (Air Pressure I – The Small Can Crusher, Air Pressure II – Prank, Air Pressure III – AnticsBernoulli’s Principle), that I’ve done over the years that always amaze my students. I have fun doing these, too. I think when I enjoy a classroom demonstration, my students tend to enjoy it more and participate more, too. Our air pressure science experiments are hands on and applicable to real life. Plus, they’re impressive (or hilarious – check out Air Pressure Prank and Air Pressure Antics). These science activities gets students thinking about air pressure which is an ambiguous concept for students to grasp. We take air pressure for granted. We don’t think about it very often. We notice it in our bags of chips when we’re flying on an air plane. We notice it in the wind and weather. But overall, it’s not as obvious as it is with this Big Can Crush experiment.

What this video doesn’t show are the steps we took before doing this demonstration. We used a clean can, marked square inches, discussed various math concepts like square units and cubic units, and of course air pressure! We heated up some water in this can, removed it from the heat and screwed on the cap. What do you think will happen? Most of my students think it will explode!

Watch what happens:

Air pressure is a force acting on us and in us every moment. If it wasn’t for air pressure in our bodies we’d flatten and crumple like this can! Check our bundled download to try all of these experiments in your own classroom.

Taking the Leap from Traditional Teaching to Hands On Learning

CampPhoto

As a retired teacher, I now have time to focus on the things that I am really passionate about. Other than my family and traveling, I am very concerned about climate change and maker spaces. Yesterday, my former administrator asked me to make a visit to seventh and eighth grade camp. I began the camp program during my last year at school and it is great to see it being carried on. Camp is a great example of authentic learning that is challenging and novel. Students really love the three days of camp, I believe because it gets them out of the classroom where lessons are so rigid. They love the camaraderie, the hands on learning, and the adventure and play involved in camp. So much so that they don’t even realize that they are engaged in learning.

The real challenge as teachers is how to we incorporate these concepts into our day-to-day lessons? Enter the maker space. Every discipline that we teach and every lesson that we teach should be examined for ways to correlate it to making. Can we study history and have students build a pyramid, a 3-D Washington Monument, a trebuchet? In English and literature can we have them write a script, make a set, act in a play? In Science, can they make a solar cooker, a hydroponic garden, build a circuit or rocket. There is NO limit to making your curriculum much more dynamic and giving children an exciting learning experience. It is just a matter of using your imagination, taking small steps, and building your repertoire of activities over the course of your career. Taking those steps will make you a better, more creative teacher, will enrich the learning of your students and will make your job much more fun and enjoyable.

Why not start today?

If you’re not sure where to begin, we’d love to help you. Download Designing a Maker Space today to get you started! Contact us or download some activities to get you started. One of our favorite methods to install this type of learning is through a Maker Space (or MakerSpace, Tinker Lab, Maker Lab and a variety of other names!). Sign up for our newsletter for ideas and support that we share with our Maker Space network!