Tuesday, January 17, 2012


The other day, Monkeyman was looking out the window and asked me if you could hang from "the computer ropes."  What?  "The computer ropes."  I couldn't figure out what he was talking about until I followed his gaze out the window and realized he was talking about the electric lines, strung between the poles along the road.  He had apparently gathered that there was some kind of relationship between those wires and the computer.  (BTW, I love it when kids invent words and phrases for things when they don't know the real words for them.  They always come up with great stuff that gives you a peek into how their minds work!)  So anyway I told him that no, we could definitely not hang from them, or even ever touch one if it happened to be down, or we could get a bad, bad shock that would hurt a lot.  We then proceeded to discuss electricity and I explained that those wires carry electricity from faraway power plants to be delivered to all the houses, to power everyone's electronic devices.  I asked him to think of some examples of things in our house that need electricity, and he did (computer, tv, lights, etc.).  I explained that the power lines connect to our house in the basement, and that there are wires that run throughout the walls which connect to the outlets where we plug our stuff in.  Then, I decided to bust out an old science kit that my mom Santa had given me for Christmas years ago, and we did a little experiment where we built a simple circuit.  Monkeyman thought this was very cool!

At first it didn't work, which was kind of good because it helped illustrate how a circuit must be completely connected or the electricity won't be able to flow through it.  After re-checking all of the connections, we found the loose one and corrected it and voila:

Then we added a switch.  Here it's open, breaking the circuit, so the light is off.
Here the switch is closed, completing the circuit, so the light is on!
This is the little kit we used.  It's got some good stuff in it - we will definitely be using it again!

Another thing we talked about was what it was like before people had electricity; all the conveniences and amusements we're used to, that people haven't always had, and what they must have done without them.  So, for the next step, we are planning to have an electricity-free evening.  This is the perfect time of year for it too, since it still gets dark pretty early.  I need to get a new wick for my oil lantern, and we'll use that and some candles for illumination, cook something to eat over a fire outside, and play electricity-free games and read books for the evening.  I'm really looking forward to it!

It seems like our best learning moments are spontaneous like this, resulting from him asking a question and us investigating the answer together.  If I had just said "Ok, sit down, today we are going to learn about electricity," I don't think that it would have been as effective.  But since his mind had turned in this direction on its own, and he was actively wondering about the concept, he was ready and willing to absorb the information.  This is what I mean when I describe "child-led" or "child-directed" learning to someone.  My job is simply to be a facilitator - which is why we have this house full of random stuff - so we have what we need handy to jump on whatever it is that comes up next!

1 comment:

  1. That is awesome! I love those learning moments :-) and what timing - it was Benjamin Franklin's Birthday today!


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