Exploring Electricity - ASE EvaluatedPublication Date: October 12th 2016
Exploring Electricity Class Pack
The Exploring electricity class pack offers a range of new opportunities for children to explore ideas about electricity. The backbone of the kit is the Genecon V3 handheld generator, which looks initially like a simple piece of kit, but reveals several really useful features on closer inspection. The generator is made from clear plastic and is just the right size and shape for small hands. The inside workings are clear to see, and extend science lessons into design and technology mechanisms by taking a look at the way the gears speed up and change the direction of motion. The components supplied in the pack support a range of different investigations, with an even wider range of investigations possible with a few extra components. Investigations are well supported by teaching notes available to download from the Data Harvest website.
Exploring the pack
The pack contains six Genecon V3 generators, connecting leads, six lamps, six LEDs, six thermo-power units and three lamp loads. Storage is made easy as the kit is housed in a Gratnells deep tray with lid. The Genecon is straightforward for children to connect via a socket on the front. The lamp and LED can be plugged directly into the Genecon for it to act as a hand-cranked torch. Alternatively, the lead with crocodile clips can be plugged in to connect the Genecon to other components. The lamp load consists of four MES lamp-holders, with lamps connected in parallel for investigating the force needed to light different numbers of lamps. The thermo-power unit consists of a mounted length of resistance wire bonded to a thermometer strip. As the resistance wire warms up, the thermometer strip registers the temperature. The Genecon is designed for left and right- handed users and children may need guiding on how to make correct connections. However, this is made simple by colour coding on the Genecon, leads and components.
What can you do?
The basic kit offers a wide range of activities for children to explore and the downloadable teaching notes provide detailed guidance for about a dozen activities and investigations. Activities include comparing lamps with LEDs, comparing the effort needed to light different numbers of lamps, investigating the heating effect of electricity by using the thermo-power unit or a thermometer, investigating the magnetic effect of electricity, and using one Genecon to drive another. Extension activities investigate the output voltage of the Genecon using a datalogger. How you approach these activities is up to you: the detailed guidance in the teaching notes provides a great starting point but the real value of the kit comes from children using it for ‘Working Scientifically’ investigations. Children can work in groups to frame questions and identify variables (factors) to change, measure or keep the same for fair test investigations. They can plan to repeat readings, design tables to record results and construct charts to display them. They can draw conclusions and make suggestions for further work. What makes these activities richer is that the equipment is less familiar to the children, focusing them on ‘Working Scientifically’ methods by necessity.
The Genecon can be used beyond the experiments suggested in the downloadable teaching notes by considering it as a replacement for batteries in science investigation work (but NOT in electronic devices to avoid causing possible permanent damage!) A Genecon generates electricity at between 3V and 6V and so it can be used to replace batteries when investigating lamps, switches, and conductors and insulators. The downloadable teaching notes also suggest using it to drive a suitable motor such as a ‘K-NEX Clearbox’ motor. The Genecon can be used very safely and flexibly as long as children do not short-circuit it (which might cause internal damage) or connect it to electronic devices. The Exploring electricity class pack therefore supports many aspects of the 7-11 Curriculum when investigating electricity.
There are other areas of the curriculum that the Genecon can be used to support. For example, it illustrates an application of gears in mechanisms within science and design and technology. The downloadable teaching notes suggest connecting one Genecon to another: one Genecon acts as generator and the other as a motor, leading to ideas about energy waste and key maths work such as fractions and ratios. As with many maths skills, having a context makes them much more memorable. The teaching notes include maths and science curriculum links.
How could you use the kit with a class?
The Exploring electricity class pack complements electrical kit that schools are already likely to have and so adds value when investigating electricity. The pack lends itself to work stations where children can investigate different aspects of electricity, either by following outline plans provided by the teacher or by devising investigations for themselves. The pack has enough kit for half a typical class of children working in small groups, thus involving all children as much as possible. It might be that the other half of the class investigates electricity using conventional kit or engages in other work such as investigation planning or presenting results from earlier investigation work.
What could you do with the kit with a few additions?
The downloadable teaching notes suggest several investigations as extension work, some of which require additional equipment. For example, instead of the children judging the output of the Genecon using the brightness of lamps, a suitable data logger can be used to measure the output voltage it provides. In some respects this might seem like an unnecessary complication, but it opens up a wealth of new possibilities for collecting, processing and presenting data. It also supports an additional application for data logging.
A second useful extension activity suggested is for children to investigate the magnetic effects of electricity using the Genecon rather than a conventional battery or power supply. This again supports children ‘Working Scientifically’ as they are able to compare results from electromagnets made using a Genecon with those made using a battery.
The Exploring electricity class pack presents an engaging way for children to investigate electricity topics, but also offers much more. Children will love making electricity using the Genecon and investigating what it will do. It is a well thought-out kit that complements existing equipment and fully supports an investigative approach to science.
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