A little bit of creativity—in students and teachers alike—goes a long way. Just ask Alissa Sperling, an SCH physics teacher whose conceptual teaching idea in graduate school at The University of Pennsylvania blossomed into nearly a decade of complex (and imaginative!) student circuitry projects at SCH.
Sperling and her fellow science teacher Ellen Kruger recently published an article about the hands-on board game project that they have spent years developing and refining titled “Electrifying the Circuits Unit: The Construction of Electric Board Games in Introductory Physics” in The Physics Teacher Magazine, a peer-reviewed academic journal covering physics and the teaching of physics. Former SCH teacher James Martin was also a co-author of the article.
The authors write about how physics students studying circuits are tasked with creating “the next best-selling family board game!” They work in teams to conceptualize and build engaging board games with electric parts (think: buzzers, lights, switches, etc.) that are presented at a “Board Game Expo” at the school each December.
“Students connect with this project because it asks them to bring their creativity to the science classroom,” said Sperling. “Every year, we are amazed by the creative board game designs, elaborate rules, and unique usage of circuit components.”
After the Expo, physics students often say that the board game project was the highlight of their year. In 2019, 64 percent of students said that this project was their favorite part of the course and the most beneficial to their learning, according to the authors.
“One of the best parts of running this project as a teacher is seeing the students connect the concepts that they’ve learned in class to the mess of wires in front of them,” said Sperling. “In science, we spend a lot of time learning about things, but the science teaching team believes that it’s equally important that our students be engaged in the doing of things. This project asks students to apply their physics content knowledge to a creative problem-solving context.”
Because the board game project has been so wildly successful for hundreds of SCHers, Sperling and her fellow teachers knew it was time to pass it on. It was “too good not to share,” she said, extending a thank you to the SCH Science Department and department chair Scott Stein for supporting the project.