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Instead of Curriculum: Electronic Circuit Boards

Electronic Circuit Board Kits (Instead of Curriculum)Working with electronic circuit boards may sound ambitious or advanced, but my kids enjoyed playing with these as part of their science and technology learning when they were in their early elementary years. They learned many concepts about creating circuits from hands-on play,  in particular by using a kid-friendly Snap Circuits® Kit from Elenco.

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These sets, designed for ages 8 and up, have standardized the various possible elements of a circuit by embedding them into snap-together plastic pieces, so young children don’t have to learn circuitry with fussy wires and uncooperative pieces that challenge fine motor skills.

There are project guides and diagrams for the kits, including how to build circuits activated by sound, light, temperature, and motion. Some of the projects kids have made include alarms, radios, speaker amplifiers, and motion detectors.

Certainly we could have done a science unit where we used a curriculum to read about concepts of electricity and circuitry, but using this kit instead of curriculum made the concepts come alive through play and experimentation. I provided very little guidance, just helping the kids get started and providing them time to use the kit when their space wasn’t invaded by their baby brother — sometimes the most important role of a homeschool mom!

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As my older sons aged, they advanced to other electronics projects, but the Snap Circuits® kit was passed down to the youngest, making it a long-time presence in our home and well worth the investment. We had the most basic set, but I do think this is a toy/project kit that may be worth adding to, perhaps bringing to the attention of grandparents who may enjoy providing upgrades and accessories.

One of our sons in particular was attracted to electronics, and following his mastery of the Snap Circuits® kit, I remember taking him to Radio Shack where a helpful representative guided him to parts to make his own customized circuit board. By then he was ready for the frustrating little wires and conductors and capacitors and already understood the power of the electronic circuit.

Many years and lots of circuits later, as a young adult, he’s become more of a software guy than a hardware guy, studying computer science at university. However, I still like to remember those early homeschooling days, when his face wrinkled in concentration as he worked to construct a circuit to power a small motor, which then operated a tiny electronic fan. I’m sure I admired the cool breeze and whispered a few words of thanks to the people who design and sell Snap Circuits®.

Jeanne Faulconer

A popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups, and parents’ groups, Jeanne Potts Faulconer has homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia. She is a former college faculty member, former editor and book reviewer for Home Education Magazine, a long-time editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice, and a recent news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Jeanne teaches writing and literature for her youngest son’s homeschool co-op, and she is a student of how learning works – at home, in the music room, in small groups, in the college classroom, on the soccer field, and in the car to and from practice. Holding her Master of Arts degree in Communication, Jeanne conducts portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress. To read more of Jeanne’s writing, inquire about a homeschool evaluation, or ask her to speak to your group, see her blog, Engaged Homeschooling.

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  1. Julie K

    Thank you for sharing this information. We are looking into purchasing a set for our 12 year old to work on during the summer and weekends! Of course we probably need some space set aside for this too!

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