Name of Activity Squishy Circuits
Author STOMP
Keywords squishy, circuit, electricity, LED, playdough, non-lego
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level 4
Time 2 Hours Total
Brief Description Squishy circuits allows for students to make a simplified circuit using Playdough as wires.
Lesson Objectives: Students will be introduced to the concept of circuits and attempt to make their own circuit using a power source, conductive wires, and lightbulbs.
Materials Needed: -Playdough
-9V Batteries
-LED Lightbulbs
Preparation and Set Up: -Pack supplies. Ensure that there are extras of everything, in case a battery has died or some of the LEDs are not functioning properly.
-Arrange students in pairs.
-Distribute materials.
Necessary Background Students should be introduced to the concept of circuits as well as the necessary components to each circuit. What are some common circuits that we use every day? It may be helpful also to explain to them the properties of Playdough that would make it useful in a circuit.
  1. Arrange students in pairs.
  2. Distribute materials.
  3. Allow students to spend some time trying to get the LEDs to light up themselves, offering guidance only when deemed necessary.
  4. If students are still stumped, it may be time to give hints to them as to why their circuit is not working. The most common issue is that the Playdough wires will be touching. Some groups may not even make two separate wires.
  5. Ensure students understand why their circuit is or is not working by the end of the activity (1-2 weeks, as you see fit).
Online Reference(s)
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Electricity & Magnetism
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3 Responses to Squishy Circuits

  1. Leticia and I did this activity in Ms. Dipersio’s 4th grade classroom at Columbus school. We changed the above powerpoint a little and presented it to the class:
    During the powerpoint, we stopped to have students act out electrons in a circuit. Two students were part of a battery (positive and negative) , one student was the light bulb that when lit up, their eyes were open, and two students were electrons that walked around the circuit when the battery was holding hands with the light bulb. We called a new group up, with the same roles as before, to act our resistance. When the electrons were running around the circuit, Leticia and I stood really close to the “wires” so that the electrons could only get through very slowly. I think this was really effective in getting the students to visualize what was happening in a circuit. We tried to emphasize the meaning of short circuits so that the students would avoid them so they wouldn’t run the batteries out. We acted this out by taking the light bulb out of the activity and having the electrons run really fast around the battery circuit.

    Once we gave out the materials, a lot of groups stuck the ball of play doh on the two clips connected to the battery then stuck the light into the doh. The light would sometimes light up like this, but it was mainly making a short circuit which made the battery really hot and kind of dangerous to touch. Almost all the groups needed guidance to avoid this strategy, but once they got the hint that they should make two separate wires, they had a lot of fun with it. Some thought their light bulbs were out, but it turns out that the two ends of the light bulb are sensitive to whether it’s arranged positive to negative or negative to positive, so try to have the students turn it around. Overall, we thought this activity went really well and the students were really excited about it. It was definitely worth it to spend a lot of time explaining electrons and circuits (about half the class) so they got some important knowledge out of the activity and could explain what was going on in their circuit.

  2. Keren and I did this activity with our fifth graders at Argenziano. They struggled with getting two “wires” out of Playdoh that didn’t touch. We had to explain what makes a circuit complete and how energy travels through it. We also explained positive and negative ends, as sometimes the light bulb didn’t work if it was oriented in the wrong direction.
    Students got creative with what circuits looked like, building out of Playdoh and using multiple lights. This was a nice introduction to circuits for us before we jumped into snap circuits.

  3. Mariana and I did this activity with our fourth graders at the Healey School. The play dough was a bit confusing after our previous lesson which focused on resistors. We tried explaining that the play dough should be treated as wire except this confused some students in that they believed that the circuit would need resistors along with the play dough. We had to explain after this that all materials had resistance and that the play dough had enough so that the circuit would not be a short circuit.

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