From the Principal's Office: Making to Learn in Physics

Ms. Fleming recently hosted Mr. Fowler’s Conceptual Physics classes for some hands-on experiences with electronics in the Makerspace at New Milford HS. Prior to their experience in this space, students had worked with the pHET DC Circuit Simulator. They were able to explore current flows through light bulbs in circuits powered by batteries and controlled by switches. This simulation experience gave the students some cause and effect experiences allowing them to witness the interplay between voltage, current, and resistance. Despite these experiences, they missed the reality of low batteries, poor electrical connections, and other real world experiences that impact circuits. This all changed dramatically when students were afforded a hands-on, authentic learning experience in the Makerspace that allowed them to create artifacts of learning to demonstrate conceptual mastery.

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Once in the Makerspace students began to create, tinker, and invent to learn concepts related to circuitry When they made the Little Bits circuits that rotated paper hands and Snaptricity circuits that launched propellers, they experienced success that usually followed some initial impediments. They had to troubleshoot to find a broken lead on a connection to the battery, or find an open circuit because a connection that appeared to be made was electrically disconnected. The support provided by Ms. Fleming was excellent and pivotal to the success of the lesson. Kits were readily available for the students to use. When batteries ran low she had backups on hand for all of the groups. Two students were pulled more towards the Legos and she immediately improvised by having electronic motors available that they could work with.This experience has provided a reservoir of learning opportunities for both of Mr. Fowler's classes that they continue to draw from when working through series and parallel circuits. The Makerspace in the library is an oasis for student self-directed learning. It serves as a rejuvenation center for inspiring of love for both formal and informal learning. In my opinion a space like this should be a priority for all schools in the 21st Century and you do not have to break the bank to create one.

cross-posted on A Principal's Reflections

Eric Sheninger is a NASSP Digital Principal Award winner (2012), PDK Emerging Leader Award recipient (2012), winner of Learning Forward's Excellence in Professional Practice Award (2012) and co-author of Communicating and Connecting With Social Media: Essentials for Principals and What Principals Need to Know About Teaching and Learning Science. He presents and speaks nationally to assist other school leaders in effectively using technology. His blog, A Principal's Reflections, was selected as Best School Administrator Blog in 2011 by Edublogs.