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Grade Range
4th
Group Size
1-2 students
Active Time
45 minutes
Total Time
45 minutes
Area of Science
Physics
Key Concepts
Electricity, energy, circuit, conductor, insulator
Learning Objectives
  • Understand the difference between conducting and insulating materials
  • Demonstrate how to build a closed circuit while avoiding short or open circuits
  • Understand how a circuit can convert electrical energy into light energy
Squishy circuit sculpture of a frog

Overview

If you love doing arts and crafts with your students, this lesson plan is for you! Teach them about energy, electricity, and circuits as they build light-up sculptures, using something they are all familiar with—play dough! Clear step-by-step instructions are provided and no previous experience with circuits is required.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • 4-PS3-2. Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations. Make observations to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence for an explanation of a phenomenon or test a design solution.
PS3.A: Definitions of Energy. Energy can be moved from place to place by moving objects or through sound, light, or electric currents.

PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer. Energy can also be transferred from place to place by electric currents, which can then be used locally to produce motion, sound, heat, or light. The currents may have been produced to begin with by transforming the energy of motion into electrical energy.
Energy and Matter. Energy can be transferred in various ways and between objects.

Credits

Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies

This lesson plan was inspired by the Squishy Circuits project, developed by Dr. AnnMarie Thomas at the University of St. Thomas.

Materials


squishy circuit materials

There are several options to purchase supplies for this project, depending on your needs and budget:

  • Squishy Circuits Lite Kit, available from Amazon.com. Note that this kit contains conductive dough but not insulating dough, so you will need to purchase or make your own insulating dough separately (see below).
  • Squishy Circuits Standard Kit, available from Amazon.com. Note that this kit does not contain any dough, so you will need to purchase or make your own (see below).
  • Squishy Circuits Deluxe Kit, available from Amazon.com. This kit contains both conductive and insulating dough.
  • Conductive dough. You can use regular Play-Doh® (available from Amazon.com), purchase conductive dough from the Squishy Circuits Store (available on Amazon.com), or follow the recipe on this page to make your own.
  • Insulating dough. You can use modeling clay (available from Amazon.com), or follow the recipe on this page to make your own.
  • If you make your own dough, make the conducting and insulating dough different colors so you can easily tell them apart.

For each group of students, you will need:

  • Battery pack (1, included in all Squishy Circuits kits)
  • LEDs (assorted, included in all Squishy Circuits kits)
  • AA batteries (4, not included in Squishy Circuits kits)
  • Conductive dough (depends on kit, see above)
  • Insulating dough (depends on kit, see above)

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Grade Range
4th
Group Size
1-2 students
Active Time
45 minutes
Total Time
45 minutes
Area of Science
Physics
Key Concepts
Electricity, energy, circuit, conductor, insulator
Learning Objectives
  • Understand the difference between conducting and insulating materials
  • Demonstrate how to build a closed circuit while avoiding short or open circuits
  • Understand how a circuit can convert electrical energy into light energy

Class Materials