This question was posed to Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduates. Surprisingly, they were unable to light a bulb with a battery and a wire. One frustrated young man hands back the equipment with the comment, "I'm a mechanical engineer, not an electrical engineer" (Private Universe Project, 1989).
Our grade five students viewed the video in disbelief, observing that these "highly educated" graduates could not light the light bulb, as it appeared to our students to be a simple task. The grade fives were then supplied with the same materials as the MIT graduates, and worked in groups to solve the challenge of lighting a bulb with a battery and a wire.
Once groups had successfully completed the challenge, they drafted a letter to the MIT graduates explaining and showing how to create a circuit with the provided materials to light the light bulb, and describing why the MIT students' designs did not work. As our students began drafting their letters to the grads, they recognized the need to conduct further research on simple circuits and how they work.
Students then applied their scientific inquiring skills to research simple circuits, particularly the purpose of the battery and wire to light the light bulb. Through the sharing of their research, students deepened their level of understanding of the basic principles of simple circuits by inquiring into how a battery works, how electrons travel through a circuit, how energy is transferred throughout the circuit, etc.
Here is a grade five student exemplar of the MIT Letter: