Saturday, October 22, 2016

Weekly Wrap-up Week 7: Trilobites, Squishy Circuits, Algebra

Thanks to some life craziness, we had a short week of school.  We still managed to get quite a bit done though, so I'm not too upset.  I have to keep reminding myself that we are going back to a year-round schedule, just so we can take the time we need when things get crazy or we have something fun to do.

We had a meeting of our 4-H club this week.  We played with Squishy Circuits.  Squishy Circuits is a project from the Playful Learning Lab at the University of St. Thomas and allows children of all ages to play around with electronic circuits.   

We did circuits a couple of times last year.  First we tried to make flashlights. This didn't go so well.  It was very hard working with the bulbs, wires and tape to make good connections.  

We then made scribbling robots (or just jiggling robots). I made a few modifications, like buying battery holders with lead wires, and these worked MUCH better.  

Squishy Circuits was even easier.   Because I would have somewhere between 10 and 20 kids for the meeting, instead of making a million batches of the conductive dough I bought Play-doh.  Regular old Play-doh is conductive since it is basically flour, water, salt and coloring.   I did make the insulating dough out of flour, sugar, and distilled water.  I didn't color the insulating dough so it would be easy to distinguish it from the play-doh. 

Now, I originally intended to do this activity at a previous meeting.  We were going to use Play-doh, insulating dough, battery packs (left over from our robots) and Christmas lights.   It's a good thing I always do a demonstration project before our meetings because it didn't work! 

Didn't my pumpkin look cool?  

My theory was that there was too much resistance in the dough for the Christmas lights to work.   The resistivity is why Squishy Circuits works so well with LEDs but connecting them directly to battery packs would cause them to pop.   I ordered a variety of LED lights from Amazon and tested out my circuits again.  This time they worked great!   I did find that they worked MUCH better with four AA batteries, rather than two so I had the kids hook two battery packs together as part of their circuit.

I made up a lab sheet using the last few pages of the classroom guide from St. Thomas that walked the kids through exploring the traits of the conductive and insulating doughs, and then they were able to design their own project.

We had some great designs with lights everywhere!

Vicki also did a presentation on Trilobites at our meeting. This was a big deal for her because she generally does not like to talk in front of groups.  She used pictures from our visit to the American Museum of Natural History, and had all her facts written on notecards.  

School went pretty well this week.   

Both kids are doing okay with their new writing journals.  I am offering some comments and hints on writing in full sentences and paragraph format.  

Vicki wrote a paragraph about Why I Like Fall:

     This is why I like Fall.  All the multicolored leaves are pretty.  The big leaf piles are great for jumping into and 4-H is back in session!  There are so many reasons to like fall.  I hope you have a great one.

Vicki moved on to estimating in Math Mammoth, which she is finding much easier.

The allure of Mosdos is wearing off.  She is still enjoying the stories but her answers to the workbook questions, especially those requiring more than a quick answer, are getting a little lazy.    The one word answers are bad enough but there's also the occasional "I got nothing".   We discussed a few of these answers and I made it clear that she needed to show a little more effort or she would be getting extra assignments.

She is still working through Little House on the Prairie.

Squidy is doing really well with the algebra section of Zaccaro Challenge Math.  So far he's needed help with one or two questions in each section and some of that is just paying attention to the set-up.

He is working on graphing of equations in Math Mammoth and is finding it pretty easy, and is still LOVING the logic chapters in Beast Academy.  He used to do Sudoku problems all the time so that section is super-easy so far.

He doesn't enjoy Mosdos as much as Vicki does but is putting (slightly) more effort into his answers in the workbook.

He's having some fun with the writing prompts I'm providing.  This week he had to Create an advertisement for a haunted house.  (I found many of the prompts on Pinterest.)

     Want to be scared silly in a land of horrors?  Come to GHOST DOOM, a ride through a house guaranteed to scare you.  With ghosts, ghouls and Middle School Teachers!

Next week we'll be doing some Halloween activities, making costumes, and preparing for the TWO Trunk or Treats we are participating in.


  1. We're doing squishy circuits in a couple weeks, too! I didn't know that store bought playdough is conductive! You may have just saved me a lot of time ;)