Project-based homeschooling in our newly reorganised space has got off to a great start, with all three of us learning a lot! Today I’ll talk about what Cordie (8) has been doing in her project time.
Cordie’s Electricity and Magnetism Project
Cordie immediately knew she wanted to do her first project on electricity and magnetism. Over the summer she read a few books I’d strewed around (in response to her expressed interest) – including The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip, Thomas A Edison – Young inventor, and How Benjamin Franklin Stole the Lightening. By September she was ready to get hands-on!
Klutz Electricity and Magnetism Kit
When we set up her new project desk the first thing Cordie did was decorate it with a picture of Ben Franklin. 🙂 Next she got out our Klutz Electricity and Magnetism kit (which she had last played with a year ago) and experimented with connecting the wires to make the light bulb glow and the buzzer sound.
Then she ran up to her bedroom and used the bulb and wires to illuminate her upstairs landing of her dolls’ house.
She loved the effect of this, and talked about how she’d like to light up the whole house, but thought it would be inconvenient to have the lights on all the time. I was very proud of myself for not leaping in with suggestions about switches! Instead I smiled, nodded interestedly, and made notes in my project journal. I’ve included a photo of the lit up house in the photo collage I put up on her pin board, to act as a visual reminder.
Next Cordie wanted to browse Amazon for electricity kits. She found this one (which I was happy to invest in on the basis it goes right through to KS3 (the end of middle school)).
This was the perfect next step – having played with the Klutz kit she understood that circuit components contain metal wires that have to be connected, but the relative ease of being able to snap the the Primary Electricity kit parts together meant she could make more complex circuits without the fiddliness of ensuring the wires were properly connected. Knowing that there are no loose connections prompts a young scientist to look for other explanations as to why a circuit isn’t working!
Cordie’s spent most of her project sessions since then methodically assembling the components of the kit, following instructions in the accompanying manual. I’ve sat quietly beside her as she worked, lending a hand on request to snap together tricky parts or to read aloud from the manual while she does the assembling.
I learned from Project-Based Homeschooling that collaboration is an important part of project work, and this has happened naturally so far. It first happened at home as Jasper (7) watched Cordie put together circuits and asked if he could play with the kit too. They spent hours over the following days putting together and discussing circuits. (During those few days I had to bulk buy 2 Amp fuses, much to the consternation of the nice elderly gentleman in the local electrical shop, who looked at me with concern and asked nervously, “Is it the same appliance that keeps on breaking?”)
Cordie also discovered that a friend at our home ed group is interested in circuits too, in particular robotics circuits, and they’ve agreed to take their kits along next time, to explore together.
How Project-Based Learning Feels
Obviously a lot of learning is happening during these project sessions, which lifts the heart of any homeschooling mum, but there’s so much more to it. I’m absolutely loving observing Cordie’s natural learning process in a way that wasn’t possible when I thought my role was to actively direct the process. A few times she’s said she’s worried I’m bored (sitting quietly, doing as she asks) and each time I’ve given her a genuine reassurance that I’m really enjoying just being there beside her. I sense that she’s beginning to relax a little now and trust that this is the real deal, that I’m not about to pounce and take over her project, or wander off bored and do my own thing. And that trust and sense of ease is carrying over into the rest of our homeschooling life.
Jasper has been using his project-time quite differently, but with equally pleasing results. I’ll talk more about that next time.