In Ann Marie Miller’s fifth grade science classes, students have come to expect that science is something that you do, not just something that you read about.  Looking for a STEAM-integrated activity to help address her Physical Science Standards for Electricity and Magnetism, Mrs. Miller reached out to the system’s STEAM Integration Specialist for some ideas on how her 5th graders could build there own circuit boards.  Thanks to some funds that had recently been provided through the Georgia Power Foundation to support STEM-related activities throughout the Barrow County School System, Mrs. Miller’s fifth graders were able to exactly that.


Using a lesson plan adapted from an activity provided by the Museum of Science & Industry-Chicago, students coupled some recycled old holiday lights, manila folders, a few other common office supplies and  less than $50 worth of 9V batteries and insulated wire to design some very cool electrical circuit board quizzes.   The first part of the lesson was quite traditional.  Each student used some introductory information and vocabulary about circuits to write a six question matching-type quiz. Then they added a little STEAM! By punching two columns of six brass-plated round head fasteners through an old manila folder and labeling the columns 1 through 6  and A through F, the students began building their circuit boards.  On the back of the board, they carefully used sections of insulated wire to connect the fastener tabs for each number to the metal tabs for the correct letter based on the matching quiz that they had written earlier.  A little tape was used to secure the stripped ends of each wire.  Next, the students built their own circuit test lights.  They did this by securing a length of insulated wire to one post of a 9V battery, and then attaching a single light section of holiday light strand to the other post.  Again using just a little tape.

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To test the building of their circuit boards along with their ability to answer their circuit quiz questions, students touched the ends of their test light to each question number and its matching answer letter.  If their knowledge and building were correct, the circuit was completed, and their bulbs lit up.  Of course, throughout the building, students were prompted to hypothesize about what would happen, and answered questions that checked for understanding and reinforced the correct vocabulary of each circuit component they were handling.

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All the components of the lesson are completely reusable, and thanks to our STEAMmates at Georgia Power, very affordable.  We look forward to replicating this activity with other students throughout our Barrow County elementary schools over the coming weeks.


This and other great STEAM-integrated activities can be found at the following Museum of Science + Industry Chicago website.