Challenge children to create a circuit to light up a bulb, drive a motor or sound a buzzer.
Early Learning Goal links
Understanding the World ELG: Past and Present – Talk about the lives of the people around them and their roles in society;
Understanding the World ELG: The Natural World – Understand some important processes and changes in the natural world around them, including the seasons and changing states of matter.
Expressive Arts and Design ELG: Creating with Materials
– Safely use and explore a variety of materials, tools and techniques, experimenting with colour, design, texture, form and function;
– Share their creations, explaining the process they have used;
STEM vocabulary to introduce
Robot, robotics, machine, mechanical, electricity, components, equipment, batteries, flow, circuit, bulb, light, dim, bright, buzzer, noise, loud, quiet, motor, spin, fast, slow, build, design, create, join, attach
What to do
Put the equipment out for the children to use along with the make a circuit provocations if you are using them. This could be in your creative area or on a table by itself. You might also want to display the robotics engineer poster.
Show the children the wires, batteries, bulbs, buzzers and motors and reinforce the names of each piece of equipment or component.
Tell the children that they are going to be creative like robotics engineers and investigate what happens when they join different pieces of equipment together. They will need to be observant and notice what happens. They will need to be resilient as the circuits will only work if they join the right pieces together. They need to keep trying until it works.
Challenge the children to complete the circuits on the provocations and/or to see what else they can do by joining up the components.
Questions to ask to support and extend learning
- What happened when you joined the battery to the bulb/motor/buzzer?
- Why do you think you needed to use two wires to connect them?
- When you join the components together like this it is called a circuit. Does that sound a bit like a shape you know?
- Does the bulb light up if you join the components together another way?
- Do you always need the batteries?
- Do you always need two wires?
- Can you make the bulb light up and the buzzer sound?
- Can you make the motor turn, the bulb light up and the buzzer sound?
- How many wires and batteries did you need to use?
- Can you make the light shine brighter or dimmer?
- Can you make the buzzer sound louder or quieter?
- Can you make the motor spin faster or slower?
- Do you have any toys that use batteries?
- Do you think they have circuits inside them to make them work?
Other things to try
You could make a robot with bulbs as eyes, a motor as it’s nose and a buzzer as it’s mouth and challenge the children to create the circuits to get each part to work.
Remember to refer to the children as robotics engineers and praise them for using the attributes. You could say things like:
“You have been observant like a robotics engineer and discovered how to make a bulb light up…”
The science of circuits
We have put together some useful information about the science of circuits to accompany this activity. Don’t worry, this is for your information only and to help you answer any questions children may have. We don’t expect you to explain this to the children in your setting!
What is a circuit?
An electrical circuit provides a path for an electrical current. A circuit usually include a battery. The current flows from the positive pole to the negative pole of the battery. For a circuit to be complete, there must be wires connected to both the positive and negative poles of the power supply.
What is an electrical current?
How do the components use electricity?
Components in a circuit transfer energy.
A light bulb contains contains a thin coil of wire called a filament. This heats up when an electric current passes through it and produces light as a result.
A buzzer contains a small disc of material which vibrates as the current passes through the buzzer. This causes the air to vibrate and we hear a sound.
When an electric current flows from a motor a force is generated on a coil of wire which makes the motor move.
When the electrical current increases, bulbs will be brighter, buzzers will be louder and motors will spin faster.