“It is just so important to me that my students not only love learning, but see the real-world applications of their learning as well,” said Jessica Ball, fifth grade science teacher at Crestview Elementary. “They are our future and I want them to leave us knowing that the knowledge they possess could be just the missing piece to a problem that has yet been solved.”
Jessica Ball went above and beyond to create a real-world experience for her students that has now been adopted at a university-level as well. Read the Q&A feature below to find out all about the incredible experience known as Ball Electric.
Q: What is Ball Electric?
Ball: Ball Electric is a fun and engaging lesson that allows students to step out of the classroom and into their future! During this two-day event, students meet the CEO of Ball Electric as they attend an orientation for prospective employees. Students learn about what the company is looking for and their beliefs. They are challenged to display professionalism as they work with others and complete a small portfolio as they work through different challenges. Students must demonstrate knowledge of series and parallel circuits of real-world objects as they construct them. They are even given the task to “break” their circuit and write a customer service ticket explaining why their circuit will not work properly. Students then switch tables and are given their first opportunity to show Ball Electric that they have the knowledge and experience needed to make a customer service call and fix the broken circuit. During this time students document their thinking through sketches and problem-solving questions.
Q: What does this process teach students?
Ball: Students experience electrical energy in the most hands-on way possible. They experience and demonstrate their understanding of parallel and series circuits. They also have the opportunity to explore how a power source can affect the brightness of light bulbs in a circuit. Students also have materials such as buzzers, motors and switches.
Q: How did this activity come about?
Ball: The idea of Ball Electric came about five years ago. I was looking for a fun and engaging way to teach circuits. It literally just popped into my head and that day I rearranged the classroom to set up the experience. It wasn’t perfect by any means but the kids loved how I was role playing and pretending not to know who they were. Ball Electric gets better and better each year as I try to make small changes to the experience. For example, they now have a “portfolio” which is just a small packet that they work through as they go through the orientation process. I even had a shirt made this year that said Ball Electric.
Q: What was the students’ reaction?
Ball: They absolutely love this activity! It drives them crazy that I welcome them at the door and introduce myself to them as if I had never seen them before that moment. I ask them for their name when they raise their hand. If a student asks to go to the restroom, I even instruct them on how to find it as if they are new to the building. I had a shirt made this year that says “Ball Electric” and all the kids wanted to know if they would get one too.
Q: What is your favorite part about the activity?
Ball: I love seeing my students so engaged! I get to be the facilitator of their learning and listening to their conversations. They also take so much pride in their work and since they are so vested in the activity.
The CISER Department at Texas Tech University has a traveling lab called CISER Electronics. It is a lab based off of Ball Electric and is available for checkout by fifth grade science teachers in the region. More information about the Ball-inspired curriculum at Tech can be found at www.ciser.ttu.edu.