Norfolk fifth graders ‘light up’ during review on electricity

In Norfolk elementary schools, students take SOLs on electricity concepts a year after they’ve been taught them. But the Virginia 4-H In-School Electricity Curriculum, supported by Virginia Cooperative Extension, seeks to provide a hands-on refresher before the SOLs — much to the delight of students and teachers alike.norfolk-costanza

By the end of the day-long session in one classroom, a student was using her necklace in place of a wire to light a circuit.

“This program accomplishes two main things: it brings out students’ creativity while engaging material they already know, and it relieves some pressure on teachers to cover material they may not be familiar with,” said Virginia Cooperative Extension agent and project lead Gregory Costanza.

Typically, students in Norfolk elementary schools are taught the SOL curriculum on electricity in late fall of the fourth-grade year, but take the test in fifth grade. Teachers and principals have expressed concerns with the gap, especially considering many fifth-grade teachers have not taught fourth grade and have little experience with the content.

The Virginia 4-H In-School Electricity Curriculum has been implemented in several schools throughout Norfolk. During the session, students are given an opportunity to manipulate batteries, magnets, bulbs, switches, and electromagnets — equipment that many schools do not have on hand — to discover the properties of electricity.

After a quick demonstration showing how circuits work using an energy ball, students were given a bulb, a wire, and a battery and were asked to make the bulb light up. Eventually, students were able to figure out how to accomplish the task, but could not move onto the next task until everyone in the group had completed the first task. This allowed students to work collaboratively while also trying to independently create series and parallel circuits successfully.

In total, 135 fifth grade students participated in this electricity review. Teachers commented that the lessons were extremely valuable in providing a boost to their SOL scores on electricity concepts. The students also reacted positively, with 85% stating on a review that they enjoyed working with electricity after completing the session.