• 08 Jul
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    BrainPOPpers Hayley and Jude had the pleasure of attending the first Blackpool Celebrating Science Conference, an innovative event where children from local schools had the opportunity attend lots of different science based workshops.

    The day ranged from handling creepy crawlies and constructing erupting volcanoes, to making bananas chime with a MaKey MaKey.

    Blackpool Celebrating Science Logo

    Celebrating Science

    The conference brought representatives from primary schools around the area to St. Mary’s Catholic College; a school specialising in maths and computing with fantastic facilities.

    St. Mary’s kindly let BrainPOP UK and the other workshop leaders take over classrooms and labs for the day to put the kids through their scientific paces, and of course to inspire the teachers with different ways science and ICT can be incorporated into lessons.

    Though the first group was as quiet as you would expect for first thing in the morning in a strange venue (and one filled with big kids!) it wasn’t long before they opened up and started getting stuck in.

    First up we got them to tell us what they already knew about electricity and the types of things we use it for, then showed them the BrainPOP UK Electric Circuits movie to bridge any gaps in understanding and introduce the concept of conductors and insulators – our focus for the day.

    Blackpool celebrating science workshop


    The Desk of Curiosities

    After the kids told us what they learned from the movie about conductors and insulators they then came up to what we dubbed the “Desk of Curiosities” which was crammed with a selection of oddities from our homes and the BrainPOP UK office.

    The kids had the opportunity to feel the objects and work out what they were made of, then voted as to whether they thought they would or wouldn’t conduct.

    They had fun working out what some of our troublesome items were such as a marble apple and some sneaky items like a ceramic statue with a hidden piece of copper tape.

    We went through the piles of “yes”, “no”, and “maybe” objects by connecting them up to a MaKey MaKey and testing them by using this piano made in Scratch. If the object conducts then the piano would chime! We even had all the kids hold hands and used ourselves as one of the conductors to start a talk on safety around electricity.

    We purposefully chose some surprising objects like the banana and the Play Doh and the kids got a chance to reassess some of their guesses when a result surprised them. In the end we finished up with our conduction hall of fame and talked about which ones we were most surprised by and thought of other things we’d like to test if we did the experiment again.

    One of the best moments of the day was when one group (disbelieving that the banana we had just tested could really conduct) insisted that we peel it, break it in half and eat a piece before they believed we hadn’t tampered with it! That constant questioning lies at the heart of good science.

    We finished up by making our own game pad to control BrainPOP’s GameUp games – the most popular one of the day was a maths game called Dublox which we played as a team. There were even kids who had finished other workshops watching us at the windows working out the puzzles for when it was their turn later!

    A Grand Day Out

    All in all we had a wonderful day hearing all about what the kids had learned and experienced in other workshops (the creepy crawlies were particularly popular) and seeing how much fun they had in ours. We got some fantastic questions about electricity and conductors from the kids, and even the secondary school prefects who were guiding the students to their workshops couldn’t help but join in to help solve Dublox.

    The kids seemed to enjoy the day as much as we did and we received some lovely feedback from both teachers and children. A teacher from Devonshire Primary School said, “It gave me ideas on how to use ICT in science. Useful videos to use as part of a lesson. Would use in a lesson and interested in getting a ‘MaKey MaKey’!” and a quote from one of the children who attended, “I really enjoyed it. I learnt that it doesn’t have to be a metal as a conductor.”

    If you’d like to give trying out BrainPOP and the MaKey MaKey in your own lessons you can find a lesson plan to try based on this workshop here.


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  • 25 Jun
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    In this lesson idea, adaptable for KS2 year groups, pupils explore electricity, electric circuits, conductivity, and basic computer peripherals.

    Pupils will learn the basics of electric circuits using a BrainPOP UK topic and explore conduction by experimenting with connecting different materials to a MaKey MaKey.


    A MaKey Makey is a relatively inexpensive kit that allows you turn everyday objects into touchpads. It allows you to use anything with at least a small amount of conductivity connected to the MaKey MaKey to do things like press the space bar or control a computer mouse. You can even use it to make a piano out of bananas!

    Pupils will:

    1. Gain a basic understanding of electric circuits and the components they need to work.
    2. Explore aspects of the scientific method through experimenting with different materials.
    3. Gain a basic understanding of conduction.
    4. Practice evaluating different materials and how they can be used.


    • Computer with internet access
    • BrainPOP UK access
    • Interactive whiteboard (or projector)
    • Selection of objects e.g. fruit, toys, leaves, playdoh etc. – a good range of items made of different materials that do and do not conduct are good
    • MaKey MaKey


    Conduction, electricity, materials, circuit, computer, insulator 


    Play around with the MaKey MaKey to make sure you are comfortable using it and setting it up, as well as getting an idea of the various kinds of things that work with it.

    A good place to get more information on how they work/how to use it is their official website: www.MaKeyMaKey.com. You can find all the support you’ll need at http://www.makeymakey.com/howto.php

    Watch through the Electric Circuits BrainPOP UK movie and note where you would like to use pause points to check understanding or expand any points illustrated in the movie.

    BrainPOP UK Electric Circuits

    Choose a Game Up game for the pupils to use their built circuit with – I like using Simple Machines or Dublox, but it is a good opportunity to pick something relevant to topics being covered in lessons.

    I like to prepare a “game pad” (see image below for an example) using a sheet of A4 paper with pencil graphite connecting the MaKey MaKey to playdoh buttons. This keeps the wires out of the way and makes a very easy to use controller. It’s also a great talking point for showing how circuit boards, like the MaKey MaKey, work.

    Makey Makey controller

    Lesson Procedure:

    1. Play the BrainPOP UK Electric Circuits movie on the interactive whiteboard. Pause the movie at predetermined points to ask pupil’s questions to check comprehension and engagement. If you wish to you could also use the quiz to check understanding.
    2. Talk about the concepts in the movie and discuss conductivity with leading questions such as – “What are wires made of? Why? What other things might be good to use as wires?”
    3. Have pupils look at the assembled objects and talk about what they are, what they’re made of, and what they’re usually for. Have pupils think about what objects would be a conductor and why they think so.
    4. Have pupils sort the objects into yes, no, and maybe piles based on whether they think the object will conduct.
    5. Hook up various objects they’ve picked from each pile to the MaKey MaKey and show them whether it works or not. If they were incorrect ask them why they think they were wrong and if it’s made them change their mind about anything in the other piles.
    6. One activity I like to do is to have all the pupils stand and hold hands and use them to close the circuit on the MaKey MaKey – this is a great opportunity to explain safety when it comes to electricity as it shows them that they are also conductive and why it’s important to insulate things like wires.
    7. Give the pupils opportunity to choose what objects to use as controls and try it out with the game and evaluate whether they could make it better to use.
    8. If you have prepared one a playdoh controller can be used here with pupils taking it in turns to use it to play the game. Have them critique the game pad and whether they think it’s any good. “What would you do better?” 

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