2 Being resourceful

The discovery and spread of electricity have made a big difference in many people’s lives. Understanding what electricity is and how it works is therefore very important for everyone so that they know how to use it well and safely. If you do not yet have electricity in your school it is not easy to teach except by using batteries, wires and bulbs, which are expensive and not readily available. Therefore using games that model different aspects of electricity can help your students to explore simple ideas about electricity.

To make these games you need to be a resourceful teacher. Being resourceful may involve you in regularly collecting and saving cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, old envelopes and other reusable and recyclable resources so that you have materials that you can use to make artefacts that will enhance your teaching. There are other ways that you can use a range of local resources; these are explored in Resource 5, ‘Using local resources’, which can help you extend your ideas and enhance your teaching.

Activity 3: Gathering classroom resources

Spend a few minutes thinking about what resources you have access to in your school, beyond textbooks.

  • What have you got that you can use to make resources for your students?
  • What else would you like or need?
  • How can you add to these?
  • Can you involve your students in helping you to gather card, paper, bottles and other containers for science?

Plan how you might gather these resources and put your plan into action. You could involve all the students in helping to catalogue what you collect. It could even be a good opportunity to do some graphs to show what types and amounts of recyclable and reusable material they have collected locally.

Video: Using local resources

Pause for thought

  • How did your students respond to helping you collect resources?
  • What have they learned from this about recycling resources?
  • How can you extend your resources with your class’s help?

This activity is an ongoing one because as you gather and then use your resources you need to add to them regularly. Developing such a culture in your class and even in your school will help you plan and teach more investigative activities in science that will help your students’ learning. Making games that model some of the real investigations related to electricity can help students’ understanding and they can revisit the games to reinforce their learning.

The next case study explores how to use static electricity to play a game.

Case Study 2: Applying science in a game

Ms Sutapa, a teacher in a small rural school, explains how she played a simple game using static electricity.

I had collected over a period of time some plastic pen cases and made game boards [like those in Resource 6]. I also had two children tear two sheets of old newspaper into tiny pieces and then divided these into piles, one to go with each board, and four pen cases.

At the start of my lesson I blew up a balloon, much to the excitement of my class, and asked if I could stick it to the wall. They said no. So next I rubbed the balloon on my head for a moment or two and then placed the balloon on the wall. The students were amazed to see the balloon stay on the wall. I asked them why they thought this happened and some gave their ideas, which I recorded on the blackboard, such as there was something on my hair that was like glue.

Next I gave them the game sets and explained the rules of the game and let them play for a few minutes. The game involved them using the pen tops to generate static electricity and use it to pick up and deposit small pieces of paper onto different parts of the board in turn as they spun a spinner. The first group to fill their board with the number of pieces of paper equal to the number listed was the winner. The students liked the game and in fact it got quite noisy at one point as students dropped their pieces of paper. I had to remind them to keep their voices down so as not to disturb other classes doing quieter activities.

At the end of ten minutes, when everyone had played the game twice, I asked them for their thoughts on how easy was it to pick up the paper and what caused them to drop. How did they manage to pick up more pieces, or fewer pieces? What did they have to do differently?

I wrote their ideas on the board and then at the end I asked them to think about why and what they thought was happening. I gave each group a piece of paper to write their ideas down and to give these to me at the end of the lesson. At the end of the day I looked at their answers in more detail and planned how I would introduce them to the idea of electrons, neutrons and protons to extend their understanding.

I was pleased at their efforts and even though some of their ideas were only half-formed it meant I could build on these in the next lesson by using some clear diagrams linked to the activity they’d done. I would explore the fact that two objects with the same charge repel each other while unlike charged objects attract each other. This would help to develop the students’ understanding of the existence of two different kinds of charge in nature.

3 Making your own games