Delving Ever Deeper: Building a Substation

Electronics with Kids - An Everyday Story

Exploring how power lines work An Everyday Story

‘Your child represents his learning by making, and he learns while making. He not only makes two- and three-dimensional artworks, but he creates experiences… He makes and creates not only to demonstrate what he knows, but to explore ideas and concepts – the process of creating a representation is a learning experience in and of itself.’Β 

~ Β Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners


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When we linger a little longer and delve a little deeper even very young children are capable of exploring and understanding quite complex concepts. An interest in trucks can become a deep interest in engines or how roads are built; an interest in rockets can become a deep interest in astronomy or how materials combust; an interest in dance can become a deep interest in different cultures or costume design.

I don’t often write about what we do in each of our project sessions. Mostly because a project is slow. It’s small investigations, it’s questions and wonderings. It’s a page read from this book, a snippet watched from that video. It’s materials gathered over time, but over time it comes together; the learning gets a little deeper. New questions reveal themselves, we continue to explore, we read and draw, sculpt and construct. We go round in circles, a little forward and a little back, we take a huge tangent over that way and double back over here; all connected.

Electronics with Kids - An Everyday Story Electonics for Kids - An Everyday Story

Jack is still deeply interested in electricity. He was so excited to take a trip to a local substation last week and has been busily constructing his own substations using the clay and wire power lines he made, blocks and an electronics kit we picked up for him from Jaycar.

substation - An Everyday Story visiting a substation - An Everyday StoryThis electronics kits has inspired a new depth of inquiry. Together we have worked on some of the simple circuits; creating a flashing LED circuit and a sounding buzzer circuit.

Electronics with Kids - Documenting learning - An Everyday Story Electronics Kit for Kids - An Everyday StoryJack though really wanted to create a working substation. He tinkered with his electronics; placing pieces here and there, building wooden block fences and writing ‘djah’ danger signs, just like we saw on our field trip. He also drew many many plans of different substations.Block substation - An Everyday Story Emergent literacy - An Everyday Story

Documenting Learning - Electronics - An Everyday Story Documenting Learning - An Everyday StoryAnd here’s one of his substations. He was so excited when after several attempts he remembered how to connect the light to the battery pack, lighting up the Magna-Tiles house. I wish I could show you the look on his face. Such pride in his creation. He’s talking about building more houses and more power lines; a little town. I think we are going to need more battery packs.

The Substation - An Everyday Story



23 Replies to “Delving Ever Deeper: Building a Substation”

  1. Oh my…..what a wonderful “project” (interest) that Jack has been exploring! I love it when we see (and you have documented this brilliantly Kate!) how truly capable and competent children indeed are. Ahh……..there really are ” a hundred languages”………

    1. and a hundred hundred more πŸ™‚ Children really are capable of exploring any and all concepts/topics and in a multitude of ways. I am really looking forward to seeing what interests Sarah. She is very different to Jack and I am really looking forward to the day she starts asking questions and becomes focussed on something particular. Won’t that be a challenge?! Two different projects at the same time πŸ™‚

  2. I love how you described the depth of inquiry and I adore Jack’s plans! I also love how you described how a project is the sum of many smaller inquiries. I always leave your blog feeling so inspired!

    1. Thanks Rach πŸ™‚ Those plans of Jack’s power stations are really fantastic. He’s numbered them; project 1, project 2 – all the way through to about 12 I think at the time. I love them πŸ™‚

  3. The most amazing thing about this journey is how much you get to learn as well πŸ™‚

    1. It really is Faigie. I am continually learning along side. This is my favourite part of this style of learning; that it is a partnership, that I am not the holder of all knowledge, and that through exploration and investigation we can learn together.

  4. I looooooove reading your project-work posts! And it’s so encouraging to read that each individual project session isn’t necessarily a non-stop, linear, goal-oriented discovery-fest πŸ™‚ Some time, if you wouldn’t mind sharing, I’d be really interested in hearing about what a typical project-work session *does* look like? Especially since the results you guys get in the end are so incredibly fantastic πŸ™‚

    1. I would love to hear more about your project sessions too! And how it differs or is similar to when you set up Reggio-inspired activity. Inquiring minds want to know! πŸ™‚

      1. πŸ™‚ Ok you’ve convinced me. I’ll write up a post in the new year.

    2. Thanks Vila πŸ™‚ I might do a ‘week of project work’ post in the new year then πŸ™‚ A lot of it is researching and drawing and making lists and plans which all builds on each other. Jack is still very interested in electricity so I hope you’re not getting too bored with that πŸ˜‰

  5. too wonderful! πŸ™‚

    i *just* cleaned out a whole bin of electronics materials left over from my older son’s experiments when he was younger. πŸ™‚

    1. I can see our collection getting MUCH bigger! It is so much fun. I have absolutely no idea about electronics – which is great because I get to learn too – and making those little circuits and then seeing them actually work, is just so fun!

  6. These are really amazing learning journeys! I like the simple but i feel a very good practice of the sketches done by Jack each time he does something, developing his First hand observations and ideas! Thanks for sharing!


    1. I think the sketches are really important too. Especially since Jack isn’t reading or writing yet and so the sketches allow him to put his ideas on paper. He really likes drawing too and talking about his sketches. Listening to him gives me wonderful insights into his understandings.

      1. I totally agree! A lot of times i find that my own perceptions have been wrong when i asked them about their drawings or sketches. It humbles me to pause and listen to them before i jump to my own conclusions! Have a blessed New Year!


  7. Hi Kate! I’m catching up on your blog today. Such lovely pieces you’ve written. It renews my convictions of natural learning and play with my own children.

    Reading this and your need for new battery packs reminds me of a YouTube episode my husband and I recently watched. My friend in the states comes up with crazy ideas and “life hacks” which he puts up on YouTube in a very professional way. He can be found under The King Of Random and he does an episode on making a battery pack with pennies! I’m not even sure if in Australia you’d have the equivalent of a penny, but it’s worth a look!

  8. As an electricity distribution planning engineer I think this is so cool! Hopefully his interest in electricity continues to grow!

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