The day was split up into two sessions of around an hour and a half. The first session was around 70 girls while the second session was around 60 boys. Our setup was in a gym in the basement which got pretty stuffy with three long tables arranged around a central table with the city map. We had 3 Maker Corps members, two Hive representatives, and two NSLA Teaching Fellows who were also working with Hive over the summer.
The first session with the girls was pretty hectic, as we quickly found out bugs and issues with the program we had set up. The heat wave and stuffy gym didn't help but I probably learned more that first session that in the rest of the reverse field trips. Our first problem was introducing ourselves. It was difficult to talk to a group of 70 hyperactive and overheated middleschoolers in a large empty gym, but Julia was pretty good at engaging the whole group despite the conditions.
Once the kids got started decorating their templates though, things seemed to calm down a bit. That is, until the first kids finished building their shapes and came by the map table. We showed the kids how to wire and install the LED lights to their boxes, but we didn't anticipate everyone suddenly finishing and crowding the map table. The most stressful moment of the day was probably with these first boxes because lights wouldn't light on and we were quickly being overwhelmed by the number of kids.
Once we finally got one light to work, however, kids were immediately re-engaged and very excited. One of the first girls to finish, for example, stayed on the map station for the rest of the session playing around with the leds and tin foil and helping other girls get their lights to work. The NSLA fellows also proved invaluable here and throughout the rest of the reverse field trips as they were able to manage the large number of kids and lead us through moments when we struggled to explain concepts as well.
By the second session we were addressing most of the problems we had found by giving introductions at tables rather than at the whole group and by having kids wire and set up their LEDs at their stations rather than at the central map table. The second session of boys also seemed to pick up the circuit concepts quicker and again, some kids stuck around the map table the entire time and helped others who were struggling.
Because our circuit seemed to have some issues either with voltage or in the connections, we couldn't get all the boxes to light up at the same time so we resorted to aluminum foil on cell batteries to light individual shapes. It was interesting to see how after doing the battery being used this way once, the kids started making their own out of their own initiative (and with batteries they were not supposed to take). I would help one kid and turn around to help another one that had called out before, only to see him parading his lit LED.
Overall, this event was very fun as we were able to work with a large volume of kids and could observe some becoming really interested in the circuits and LEDs while others focused a lot more on the designing and building of their shapes. Towards the end of the activity, we also sent kids to a paper mural we had in the corner to write their thoughts and comments on the day, and it was interesting to read their reflections.