Crafting Circuits: Integrating Culturally Responsive Teaching and Current Events into Science

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Science and Children






National Science Teachers Association

Publication Date


Award Number

NSF, Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL) 1758823


NSF, Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL)

First Page


Last Page



While the majority of young children’s teachers in the United States are white (78%) and female (99%), the general population of the United States is more diverse than ever (Saluja, Early, and Clifford 2002). Teachers wishing to bridge the gap between themselves and their students must engage in teaching different perspectives, histories, and stories than the ones they learned growing up. Meaningful differentiation and culturally responsive teaching allow teachers and students to explore why science is taught as it is, who tells the stories of science, and who wrote the stories of science we share. Elementary teachers are in the unique position of teaching content across subject areas, which affords them the opportunity to create meaningful and culturally responsive teaching moments through integrated projects.

Crafting circuits are a set of multidisciplinary projects teachers can use to integrate science into social studies and language arts instruction. With paper or fabric as a base, students are able to create their own circuits with supplies like batteries, conductive thread or tape, LEDs, and microprocessors. Conductive thread or copper tape can be used in order to carry an electrical current from the battery to other electrical components, such as LED lights. These crafting circuits can include microprocessors, which can be programmed to perform various functions, such as lighting LEDs in a sequence. With these components, students can make their own unique projects. Everyday materials such as cards, posters, and clothing can all become working circuits. In this article, we share details of two such projects. The first is a computational timeline, which is a programmed or computerized timeline that lights up based on programmed directions coded by the student. The second is a computational quilt square, which is a sewn quilt square that can be programmed to work in conjunction with peers’ squares. Teachers can engage students in retelling stories from texts, as detailed in the timeline project, or showcasing social studies content, as shown in the quilting project. Both projects anchor cross-curricular learning in energy and circuitry based projects to facilitate integrated learning in the elementary classroom.

The open-ended nature of crafting circuits allows teachers to facilitate learning in a way that encourages student creativity and inquiry. While the typical battery-and-lightbulb method of teaching circuits has students piecing together pre-designed circuits, crafting circuits give students the ability to create a final product that is from their own design. While students are not designing to “fix” a problem, the limitless solution paths afforded students to design their own sewable circuits presents them with many of the same problem solving and engineering challenges seen in typical engineering design tasks. However, because these crafting circuits can be applied to creating projects for different areas of the curriculum, they present a unique opportunity to engage science in the service of culturally responsive teaching.