Maker Project Lesson: Connecting texts through paper circuit symbolism

 

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The goal of this post is to provide other educators with an example of how to use paper circuits in the classroom to enhance and extend the curriculum. The question initially posed for this project was, how do I use maker kits in a language arts classroom to meet course requirements and engage students in participatory learning? After a lot of contemplation and experimentation I came up with a few challenge questions. How do I help my students use their strengths (technological, physical, artistic) to make an item or create an experience using paper circuits that connects the 3 major texts used in our World War II unit? When have completed their maker project, how can the projects be displayed/experienced at our annual craft show or coffee night?

The purpose of this activity will be to help 9th grade students demonstrate the interconnectivity between the texts they are working with in language arts and social studies. For this unit, students read Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Research a WWII battle for a historical analysis research paper, and watch part of the documentary Inside the Nazi War Machine- Inside the Holocaust by the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Using paper circuits as a way to link their ideas and understanding of the events they are studying could be a great culminating project. I really like the idea of using the light from the circuit as a symbolic representation of hope throughout the war, but I also do not want to limit my students to only thinking of that specific symbolic representation.  Making textual connections through the project and the explanatory paper they will submit as part of the assignment will really allow students to connect the dots between not only what we are doing in class but also what they are working on in social studies. According to Mishra and Koehler (2009), “Teaching requires the transformation of content in ways that make it intellectually accessible to students.” I believe that by focusing on the connections between the texts as well as the language arts and social studies connections through this maker project students will be able to discover new ways of thinking about the material.  Students spent the entire unit building their knowledge of the material and this is their chance to creatively shape that knowledge into a finished product that showcases their thoughts and understanding. Below are some of the CCSS standards that can be focused on through this assignment:

Materials Needed for this project:

  • A variety of paper, card stock, cardboard, and donated/recycled materials (bottles, cans, tissue paper, etc.)
  • Copper tape
  • Electric paint
  • Conductive thread (optional)
  • LED lights (at least 1 per student)
  • Coin batteries (at least 1 per student)
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Glue

Technology needed:

  • Laptop/desktop/tablet for research, reflection, and document creation

Plan for instruction:

Day 1: Teaching students how to connect the texts

1. Students will be asked to brainstorm as many connections as they can think of between Lord of the Flies, their research from their historical analysis paper dealing with WWII, and the documentary of the war they viewed. They will also be asked to think about symbolism in relation to all 3 texts. *Symbolism has been defined and discussed repeatedly throughout the year and the unit.

2. Once they have their ideas down on paper or recorded online, they will be introduced to the following challenge: How can I use paper circuits to  showcase the connections/symbolism between the texts?

*If students have never worked with paper circuits before then extra time must be afforded to teach them how to use the materials to make a paper circuit.

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Paper circuits use copper wire, electric paint, and other conductive materials to connect two circuits in order to operate an LED light.  Students will be using the circuit they build in their project as a symbolic connection between the texts.

3. Students are given time to experiment with the materials available to them in order to work out how they are going to approach the project. They will start by preparing a working prototype of their circuit and an outline of their project idea (this may take 2-3 days of class time).

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Above is an example of two circuits that have been created to symbolize envy (green light) and hope (white light) in connection to the 3 texts associated with WWII.

4. Once students have completed a prototype of their circuitry and have a clear outline/rationale for their project, they can build and elaborate on their idea.

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In this example, a quote from Lord of the Flies was added, broken pieces of glass and pottery, small change, and dates from specific battles were wrapped around the can.

5. After students have spend time putting together their symbolic representation of how the texts connect using the circuit, they will start working on their explanatory paper, which will showcase their ideas and solidify their creative choices.

6. Students will be asked to reflect on their work after completing the draft of their paper and may add other elements to their projects if they see fit.

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Here an extra quote was added to the front of the project to back up an important idea from the text.

7. Once students have completed their reflections and revisions on both their projects and papers it is time to showcase their work.

In my classroom, students would be asked to display their project and written work at the annual craft fair/coffee shop night in order to reach a wider audience and validate their work in the community. Students could also share their work in class or through display cases. The importance of having a venue to show their work is to validate what they have worked so hard to create and allow them a chance to view the creativity and innovation of their peers. Their final product is not only a work of art, but a display of higher level thinking skills shown through their ability to symbolically connect and evaluate multiple texts across two subject areas.

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Reflection:

The plan for this assignment went through many stages. I felt that paper circuits were a great way for students to look at symbolism and connect texts but I also did not want to limit students to a specific type of symbolism or hinder their own interpretations of the texts. It is hard to give students the space they need to create while also trying to assess certain criteria. Design learning is a new concept in my classroom and so reflection, self-evaluation, and readjustments will definitely be a part of the classroom experience for not only the students, but myself as well. It is important that students are also given the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with people outside of the classroom about their studies and how they effect them, which is why showcasing their work at a community event would be powerful. According to Design Thinking for Educators,”Invite colleagues, experts, and friends to participate
in your design community. Participants may be
experts or novices in Design Thinking but should
include people you feel comfortable sharing new
ideas and frustrations with” (74).  By providing students with this opportunity to interact with the class material in new ways and giving them a comfortable venue to show their work, students will be able to succeed as students, innovators, and community members.

The example I have provided, in my mind, is far inferior to what one of my students would be able to imagine and invent. It is merely a rudimentary example in order to spark an idea and challenge them to surpass my attempt with their own. I had a fantastic time struggling through the process of designing, connecting, and rationalizing my own project. The level of my own engagement was refreshing and my excitement of having the opportunity to tackle this project with my students in the upcoming year keeps growing. I cannot wait to witness their own interpretations of our WWII unit.

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References:

IDEObooks (2013). Design thinking for educators. IDEO. Retrieved from http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com/DTtoolkit_v1_062711.pdf 

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Too Cool for School? No Way!: Using the TPACK Framework: You Can Have Your Hot Tools and Teach with Them, Too. Learning & Leading with Technology, 14-18.

 

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