The best part of the workshop was how much we learned about the PROCESS of learning through creating models by actually CREATING our own science models to showcase during the workshop. That process validated my 'theory' that maker skills and tools can support the process of learning in science.
By being familiar with how to create both parallel and serial circuits (a 4th grade standard) I was able to access the concept that the loss of energy as it moves through each LED powered by a battery in a serial circuit, was much like the loss of energy moving through a food chain.
I definitely went through each phase of the creativity cycle from IMAGINE to PUBLISH as I created my Food Web Model.
As a learner I started to imagine the design of my model. My imagination was limited to my own mental model of the food web and the materials I was familiar with. Since I was familiar with the way the serial circuit worked from recent adventures in "making", I was able to imagine the energy in a serial circuit working the way the energy in a food web worked.
But as I started to CREATE and PLAY with different materials, I did lots of RESEARCH to make sure that my MODEL accurately represented my growing understanding of the food web. It was important to me that the example I used was scientifically accurate. As I shared my idea with others I was also sharing my mental model, explaining which materials I chose and how they symbolized various levels of the food chain.
Example of a BUILD in PROGRESS Food Web Model
In MAKING the act of PUBLISHING does not mean that I would be publishing words (as in a book or paper), but that I would be completing a PRODUCT (thus publishing) that would be shared with others. The Build in Progress Food Web Model was one way to publish, but so was the sharing of my artifact with other colleagues. My desire for my model to be scientifically accurate was increased because I was investing myself into something beautiful, something I made with my hands that was not simply a drawing where I labeled consumers and producers on a paper diagram. The whole process created a deeper understanding of both the way energy flows through a serial circuit and through the food chain. and set me right up to imagine more possibilities in making and in how the world around me works.
The following slides are filled with ideas, academic research, examples, tutorials, and resources that we were able to organize around the topic of using Soft Circuits as a tool for creating models in science education.
And to top it all off, we learned a lot about each other as we watched our colleagues express themselves in very different ways with the materials we made available to our participants.