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Makey Makey Leads to Real Life Learning

July 05, 2017

The following story comes from guest blogger and instructional coach Kristen Owen Beck. Kristen works with the Auburn Elementary School in Auburn California. We love this story because it shows the power of learning electronics with a classroom friendly tool like Makey Makey. Here is Kristen's original blog:

I recently introduced Makey Makeys to four of the classes ranging in grades first through fourth, click here to read this blog. When introducing the Makey Makey, I like to hand the student groups the Makey Makeys and allow them to explore and figure out what to do or not do. Students get to struggle and explore while their teacher and I watch and reply: "I don't know" and "You can figure it out" when they ask questions about what to do. As a result of this lesson, Auburn elementary students had a basic understanding of circuits.

Unrelated to sharing the Makey Makey with our students, one of our school sites has had sprinkler issues in their campus garden. The awesome principal, Aurora Westwood Thompson, who also has her contractors license and knows a thing or two about sprinkler solenoids, decided to come up with a great Makey Makey simulation for some of her students.

Aurora noticed that the Makey Makey alligator clips matched the colors of the wires to the school's sprinkler system solenoids (she substituted grey for blue). She also noticed that the Earth clip on the Makey Makey simulates the neutral wire leading from the irrigation timer to the solenoids controlling the valves.

So she realized that if she had the students set up the Makey Makey so that it would play the piano using the color coded alligator clips (grey for blue), the students would be able to go to the sprinkler system and wire up the solenoids for the different watering stations and get their garden watering system functional for the spring and summer months.

Aurora grouped the students with an eye towards forming inclusive teams. The first group had 4 fourth graders and the second group had 4 second and third graders. Both groups had students with a range of abilities and needs, including students who struggle academically or emotionally, as well as students labeled gifted. All of the students came to the table having used the Makey Makey with me at least one time.

Aurora and her students quickly used the Makey Makeys to simulate the system, then they took that understanding outside to apply it to real life. Each student team took turns wiring the solenoids and controlling the sections of sprinklers. It was an awesome lesson for the principal, Aurora, and her students, who now understand more about circuits and wiring, in a real life context.

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