Electrical Circuit
Electricity and Magnetism

Putting loops to work

Classroom Activity for 5-11 Supporting Physics Teaching

What the Activity is for

Designing and building electrical loops.

Here, children construct a variety of circuits that all contain an on-off switch. The activity builds on their understanding of how electrical loops work and the role of switches within a loop.

The aim is that children are able to design and construct a variety of circuits incorporating a switch for particular purposes.

What to Prepare

  • A complete electrical loop
  • A collection of pieces of conductor to make switches
  • Batteries, bulbs, wires

What Happens During this Activity

Set the children some design challenges, such as the following:

  1. Build a circuit which includes a switch that will turn a light off when a door opens
  2. Build a circuit which includes a switch that will turn a light on when a door opens
  3. Build a circuit which includes a switch that is operated by a magnet
  4. Build a circuit which includes a switch that is operated by a rising water level
  5. Build a circuit which includes a switch that sits inside a pencil case and will turn on an alarm in the pencil case if it is stolen

In each case you might contextualise the challenge by providing a simple situation in which this can switch will be useful. the solution in each case will be a single loop containing a switch or switches. There is no need to have branches on the loop, or multiple loops.

Children should be encouraged to document their solutions in their own style.

You might introduce circuit diagrams here as a means to easily understand each others solutions.

Teacher Tip: Do encourage students to make their own switches. Do your best to discourage them from creating a short circuit to turn a bulb off as it will quickly flatten the battery and could be dangerous. As a real-life engineering solution, the short-circuit is not acceptable!

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