In Norfolk elementary schools, students take Standards of Learning exams on electricity concepts a year after they learn about electricity. But the Virginia 4-H In-School Electricity Curriculum, provided by Virginia Cooperative Extension, offers a hands-on refresher before the SOLs — much to the delight of students and teachers alike.
By the end of the daylong 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 4-H youth development agent project lead Greg Costanza.
Typically, students in Norfolk elementary schools are taught the SOL curriculum on electricity in late fall of their fourth-grade year, but they 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 4-H 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 using an energy ball to show how circuits work, 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 they could not move on to the next task until everyone in the group had completed the first. This allowed students to work collaboratively while also trying to independently create series and parallel circuits.
In total, 135 fifth-grade students participated in this electricity review. Teachers commented that the lessons were extremely valuable in providing a boost to the students’ SOL scores on the concepts of electricity. The students also reacted positively, with 85 percent stating on a review that they enjoyed working with electricity.