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Look! No wires. Learning about electricity without wires.

Having attended the Design and Technology Show this weekend at Birmingham's NEC, I came away with an amazing product which I think revolutionises our understanding of electricity and electrical circuits whilst unleashing our creative minds to make some cool things.

It's black and comes in a small jar.

The product is a glue-like paint which just like paint, can be used on any surface you can think of. It dries like glue and is adhesive, which means it can be used to hold things together. However, it also has conductive properties, which makes the product really exciting when combined with electrical components.

As a teacher, teaching electrical circuits to young children often leads to many misconceptions. Whenever we see a circuit presented in a book, very often it's shown as either circular or rectangular. That's difficult to translate into a bulb, battery and a bunch of wires that take on a life of their own.

Over at the Bare Conductive stand I was captivated by Bibi Nelson who demonstrated painting two parallel lines on some paper. She attached an LED light to one end of the parallel lines and placed a 9V battery which straddled across the two lines at the other end. The LED lit as electrical energy transferred through the paint to the LED. Brilliant. 

Of course the conductive paint can be used to make any shapes you like and so the concept of a standard rectangular or circular circuit is replaced by an understanding that circuits simply need to be complete and join up.

Not only can the paint be applied to paper, but it can be painted on walls, concrete, glass, fabric and even skin! (though you'll need a pot of Bare Skin instead!) There are numerous ways of connecting the painted surface to buzzers and batteries, perhaps using paper clips, adhesive copper strips, crocodile clips and even snaps for fabric projects.

Bare Paint is very versatile and there are some really cool projects that you can have a go at making on the Bare Conductive website. Take a look for yourselves and see if there's something you think pupils would be equally amazed by.


Role Play and its place in the Primary Curriculum

researcherIt never ceases to amaze me how important Role Play is in engaging pupils in understanding and performing tasks to the best of their ability. I remember quite early on in my teaching career when I was working with friends from Ultralab on an eTui research project. The afternoon involved my pupils playing with toys, a radio controlled car, a programmable toy and an eTui (a meta-level learning toy.) We asked my pupils to complete a questionnaire about what they understand about how each toy moved, what it sensed and how it responded to the environment in which it was being used. 

Crucially, we gave the pupils the title of 'researcher' and issued them each with a clipboard. Short of giving them a white 'lab' coat, they were every bit the researcher, and assumed that role throughout the afternoon. Interestingly enough, I remember questioning how most of the children understood the role of a researcher, yet their experience of what a researcher actually does was limited.

Recently, in discussion with colleagues during lunchtime, I reiterated how significant children in my Enterprise Team, had taken to the idea of being in-role as designers, inventors and business people. Here's why.

Over a period of 4 days next week, pupils at Kings Road Primary School are taking part in an Enterprise Week. The pupils have been tasked with designing and making products (or providing services) to sell with the intention of making a profit on the £50 they have received to buy resources. The ideas that each team are developing are already proving to be highly secretive and there is much competition between teams and keeping ideas top secret is the name of the game.

Logo Design Sheet Primary School

Whilst pupils in my team were in-role, I had them sign a child-friendly version of a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) which gave them a sense of loyalty and assurance to each other that our ideas will not be shared with other children or teachers. Whilst other pupils have since shared confidential information, my team haven't. How significant was role-playing in ensuring that our ideas weren't readily shared with others?

Today, we finalised our plans, discussed and voted on our team name, 'The F Factor' and began work on designing a logo for the team. Again, I used role-play with the help of preprinted stationery to ensure pupils engaged with the idea of being a creative designer for our team. The logos they presented were of a high standard and their understanding of the task was obvious in the designs they had produced.

Role-play had an enormous significance in the primary classroom and is not just the domain of Key Stage 1 pupils, but can, and should be given opportunities throughout all year groups in the school.



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