Electronics coming to life

In teaching the same topics come around again year after year and again in each year group at different times. In Science we call it ‘spiralling‘ as students see the same topic again in a different year but at a more advanced level.

For example, I teach electricity in Year 7 around March, with Year 9 and Year 10 in September and with Year 12 in April. 

You might think, doesn’t that get a bit dull? Isn’t it a bit repetitive? The answer is not at all – party because it’s my favourite topic and partly because the students go from knowing almost nothing to developing knowledge and skills that will actually be useful in their lives – right in front of their eyes.

Talking to many Physics teachers the majority view is that they dread teaching electricity. These are the reasons why:

  • It demands equipment for each student.
  • It demands an awful lot of patience
  • The equipment doesn’t always work first time (so it requires more time). 
  • The experiments are fiddly and complex. They require dexterity and precision to set up. 
  • Students require supervision and constant support to get the desired results.

Yet those reasons are exactly the reasons I like it. 

In Year 7 we discover simple circuits but don’t stop there. We learn how they can be used to make logic gates – the building blocks of computers. We learn about some of the main electronic components and make exciting projects with them: A laser quest game, a simple music synthesiser and a lie detector among other things.

In Year 9 we learn the story of electricity from static (see your hair stand on end) to the invention of the battery (and make one) to electromagnets and relays (and make them too). When we return to the topic after Easter we’ll be building a radio transmitter and receiver.

In Year 10 we make more complex circuits and perform calculations for them. I’ve recently introduced more and better components than the basic curriculum needs so their understanding is more interesting, building light detectors and LED displays. 

We also take these ideas further in my Technology Society after school where we can make even more complex circuits. One goal I have is to have the option of students buying the components at a small cost so they can print a 3D case for their circuits and take the finished project home.

There’s a joy in making things that do something. It brings the subject to life.

Ayd Instone, Head of Physics