Diving into the goal for the week -to create an activity and design a lesson plan using a maker kit and
items found while thrifting- in truth, I felt overwhelmed. As much as I try to maintain an open mind
about all subjects as both a teacher and a student, science (especially the electrical type) has never been
my forte. I was, I suppose, frightened of the unknown. As a way to monitor both the experience of the
assignment itself, as well as my own reflection upon it, I decided to track my efficacy at each stage of
On Sunday night, I began to mull over possible goals to be accomplished by my maker kit. Squishy
Circuits, a brilliant and cost-effective product, albeit highly accessible, was still unfamiliar to me.
Could I use the kit as a team-building or collaborative activity? Should I effectively turn students loose
with the materials -once I found them- to create an ill-structured problem, or should I minimize chaos
by providing a well-structured activity? At this point, my efficacy was low with regard to both building
Squishy Circuits and incorporating items from the thrift shop.
On Monday, I spent about five hours exploring and “playing” with Squishy Circuits. Beginning with
the maker website, I pored through numerous documents and tutorials which proved helpful in building
my understanding of the process. Following are the links I found to be of high benefit:
Following this online exploration, I continued with a trip to the local Goodwill. In the store, I searched
for both conductive and insulating materials. Upon leaving Goodwill with a collection of small
electronics, ties, and seashells, my efficacy regarding designing a classroom curricular activity using
thrift shop items had improved to an “intermediate” level as my ideas for classroom integration were
beginning to form, but were not yet solidified.
Another possible conductor?
A whole shelf of possible conductors!
My helpful assistant (little brother) examines small electronics with me. He rode along to Goodwill.
The total for the purchased items.
Following the Squishy Circuits recipes, I prepared both the conductive and insulating dough and
proceeded to attempt a simple circuit, which proved successful and bolstered my efficacy in creating
slightly more complicated circuits, involving LED’s, buzzers, and a motor.
Blue is conductive and off-white is insulating…insulating was a LOT messier to make- that sugar!
YouTube clips from my own “Squishy Play” (select Videos- there are 12 of them!): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmtWK_P26ebD0972lbcPClA/videos
Aspiring higher, I wondered if I might be able to power a small clock or CD player acquired at
Goodwill and design a classroom activity around that. After two hours of trial, error, and repeated
failure, I reached the conclusion that I would need to re-envision my lesson plan. However, I did not
feel as discouraged as I normally would have after encountering frustration level, as I internalized my
learning from last week- that failure is part of the creation process. Indeed, I began to synthesize my
increased efficacy with “squishy circuitry” as well as my science content knowledge and pedagogical
emphasis on student collaboration to determine a new direction.
Attempting to use dough to power a personal CD player. I could not complete a full circuit since the
battery configuration is not the same as the Squishy Circuits battery pack.
Working on an insulated dough configuration that might power a flashlight.
The fifth attempt to power this flashlight. Finally created a design that will both complete a circuit and
fit inside the battery chamber.
The same flashlight-attempt circuit powering an LED outside the flashlight. My boyfriend suggested
this trial idea to me and our conjecture is that although the circuit is complete in a stand-alone
environment, the flashlight uses the pressurized end to conduct it, so the design will not turn on the
Armed with my now-high efficacy with basic Squishy Circuits, I deepened by investigation, exploring
properties of conduction and insulation. Following are some helpful references I found:
During a trip to an additional Goodwill store to purchase electricity-conducting items, I
rebuilt some circuits and modified others. One of my most third grade-accessible creations incorporated
a metal candle lamp. Recognizing the value of incorporating both content knowledge and team-
building, I used the lamp idea to connect recently-acquired student knowledge of how light travels with
the LED’s function in a circuit to create the apparatus you will see in my video tutorial. My lesson plan
(available for download at this link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Jvu_rqDDQ4PIjLLgF-ZoSD-31zpc_fOPf3BQa3_UMP8/edit?usp=sharing
explains the challenge presented to teams of students, which
involves incorporating the metal lamp into the Squishy Circuit to create a signal device that the teams
will then use to participate in a unit-review game. This process will be especially relevant following
our third grade science unit on light, and will be further applicable when used in future review games,
spiraling back to previously-learned concepts.
While I look forward to modifying and refining my thinking next week, as I reflect on the process,
I recognize the degree to which failure is imminent when, as students and as teachers, we begin
with low efficacy and little schema and attempt to work our way toward high efficacy and complex
understanding. As nonthreatening as it may sound, building a circuit involving found items initially
seemed like an insurmountable task, as I had virtually no prior knowledge. However, monitoring the
process in an Evernote document and tracking my efficacy at each stage actually served to increase that
efficacy to the point at which I could actually create something repurposed and applicable to students.
Note: The visual and multimodal media presented in this post are intended to enhance and complete
the reader’s understanding of multi-faceted process. They are included to contribute to the chronology
of the project and support the text by creating a visual representation, illustrating the journey of
Squishy Circuits Signaling Lamp
To use Squishy Circuits to create a signaling device for use in third grade review game, incorporating a metal lamp found while thrifting.
Squishy Circuits Items (Squishy Circuits starter kits -1 per team of 3-4 students- are recommended and will supply all the necessary elements)
Battery pack designed for AA batteries
4 high-quality AA batteries
Small polarized LED’s
Conductive dough (see ingredients in recipe 1)
Insulating dough (see ingredients recipe 2)
Assorted small metal electricity-conducting lamps, bulbs removed
Assorted small metal electricity-conducting candle holders- preferably with metal shades
Step by Step Process (See the how-to video by clicking this link) :
1) Prepare conductive dough (*see link above)
2) Prepare insulating dough (**see link above)
3) Insert 4 AA batteries into Squishy Circuits battery pack. This battery pack will provide 6 volts of power. Be careful not to touch the two wires together.
4) Roll conductive dough into two spheres. The shape is not critical.
5) Keeping battery pack turned off, insert the negative wire into one sphere of dough and the positive wire into another. The more surface area covered on each end of the wire, the stronger the current will flow.
6) Sculpt a layer of insulating dough and place between the mounds of conductive dough to ensure that they do not touch and “short out” the circuit.
7) Roll two long “snakes” (ropes) of conductive dough.
8) Prepare two strips of insulating dough and adhere them firmly, one to each rope of conductive dough.
9) Attach the rope combinations from the base, up the neck of the lamp, to the platform, ensuring that they do not touch each other, and that the insulating side touches the metal neck.
10) Extend the conductive ropes as necessary to touch lamp’s metal platform (the spot where the light bulb or candle would go).
11) Gently separate the legs of the LED; place the short leg into the end of the negative conductive “snake” and the longer leg into the end of the positive conductive “snake.”
12) Turn on the battery pack. If your circuit has not shorted out, it will light up the LED!
Note: If your LED does not light-up, check the following troubleshooting points:
The correct batteries are properly inserted in the battery pack.
The ropes are tightly adhered to the mounds of dough connected to the battery pack. You may want to “squish” these together to ensure their conductivity.
The insulating dough protects the two main mounds of dough from touching.
The “snakes” of dough are insulated from one another.
The ends of the conductive wires are fully adhered to the conductive dough.
The ends of the ropes touching the lamp’s platform are conductive.
The conductive dough does not touch the metal lamp until it reaches the platform.
The LED is touching each side of the conductive circuit.
Kim, G. and Schmitdbauer, M. (2013, July 18). “Maker camp 2013.” [YouTube]. Make. Retrieved from
Mylène. (2012, April 15). “K-12 engineering: squishy circuits tips and tricks.” Shifting Phases. Retrieved from
Dough creatures. ( 2011). PBS: SciGirls. Retrived from PBS Online
SquiggleMom. (2013, August 11). “Snake, house.” [YouTube]. Squishy Circuits Projects. Retrieved from
Thomas, A.M. (2011, April 4). “Hands-on science with Squishy Circuits.” [YouTube]. TED Talks. Retrieved from
Todd, Sylvia. (2012, January 17). “Squishy Circuits- Sylvia’s mini maker show.” [YouTube]. Make. Retrieved from
University of St. Thomas. (2011). Squishy circuits. Retrieved from from University of St. Thomas website http://courseweb.stthomas.edu/apthomas/SquishyCircuits/index.htm
Note: The visual and multimodal media presented in this post are intended to enhance and complete the reader’s understanding of multi-faceted process. They are included to contribute to the chronology of the project and support the text by creating a visual representation, illustrating the journey of improved efficacy.