I heard about Little Bits a few years ago. At the time, I was a 5th-grade science teacher. There was an interactive display set-up at the local children’s museum and I tinkered with the brightly colored puzzle pieces of circuit connections. This brought to mind a few questions.
- Can students truly understand the basics of circuits when the connections are pre-planned for them?
- Would this product be fun for kids to use? If so, for how long?
- What other educational standards can be supported by using this tool?
My immediate answers…
- Yes, what’s stopping them? That’s what the generalization of knowledge and skills is all about!
- I can’t answer this one…
- A list of environmental science, basic concepts of economics, and problem learning projects come to mind.
Here’s what Mackenzie, a 5th grader, had to say, “The kit really didn’t work too well. When I tried to make something, it collapsed in front of me.”
Mackenzie is referencing the Little Bits STEM kit. She used the instruction manual to build each circuit recommended. Mackenzie expressed excitement when she successfully made the fan blades move, the siren ring, and the light turn on and off with a switch. So far the kit seemed like a winner with this 5th grader. When the builds began to use the base piece, issues with successful builds began to arise. The base piece is a rectangular piece that other bits, already connected, can be inserted and fastened to. Although Mackenzie noted more than once that this information was not in the instruction manual, we later realized that there were wire ties that were included in the kit for this purpose. Smart thinking Little Bits!
The verdict is in, Little Bits are fun, but if kids are going to get the most out of the product, one must plan for scaffolding and reference problems that can be solved through engineering and design with the use of the product. Once all of the suggested builds were completed, Mackenzie was ready to move on. Truthfully, by this point, I had already let a group of 4th and 5th-grade Robotics Club students tryout the Little Bits STEM Kit; they had a similar experience. We used a lot of tape and when they were done with the instruction manual, they were done with the kit.
Although the STEM kit requires scaffolding; the Little Bits Coding Kit still has Mackenzie busy with ideas. Read more about the Little Bits Coding Kit in the next Kids Know Best post.
Little Bits Website: https://littlebits.com/
Interested in learning more: The effect of combinings analogy-based simulation and laboratory activities on Turkish elementary school students’ understanding of simple electrical circuits