Programming at age 6? At Indian Hill Primary School, that’s how the bots roll

Programming at age 6? At Indian Hill Primary School, that’s how the bots roll
Posted on 06/09/2017
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By Natalie Brady, Communications Intern

When is the right time to teach STEM? At Indian Hill Primary School, it’s as soon as students step through the door in their kindergarten year.

Throughout the entire 2016-17 school year, kindergarten, first grade, and second grade classes received a STEM lesson once a month. This is a lesson incorporating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, that also incorporates the current Common Core curriculum in some way. The Engineering Design Process is integrated into each lesson, familiarizing the students with the five step process where they are given a problem or challenge, have to imagine how they are going to solve the problem, plan how they will solve it, create the solution, and then step back and improve the project. Students are constantly working with a pattern to improve collaboration and communication skills.

One fun STEM challenge was the Dixie cup tennis ball challenge, where students were given fifty cups and one tennis ball and had to work together to create a tower of cups that would rest the tennis ball on top. To tie in with weather lessons relating to Common Core curriculum, another STEM challenge was to design a sort of snow shovel to help shovel their driveway - that is, on a much smaller scale. The driveway was a gift box lid, the snow was actually sand, and the students were given a variety of materials to create the snow scoop. The constraint they had to make the shovel was that they could only use two fingers on one hand to operate the scoop. From there, whichever team could create the shovel that could scoop up the most sand with using just two fingers, was the “winner.”

Up until the end of the 2016-17 school year, each STEM lesson had been relatively “low-tech,” as Gifted teacher Monica Dawkins describes. However, during the last few classes of the year, kindergarten students’ STEM lesson moved to “high-tech” as the Primary School PTO graciously provided the school with a set of Ozo Bots. Can you imagine five- and six-year-olds actually programming computers? You’d better try, because that’s precisely what they did!

The Ozo bots are one inch miniature robots with sensors that pick up colors. The bots respond to the colors when they’re set up with different codes, and can be used with Ozo Bot markers or apps on iPads. The kindergartners used the Ozo Bot markers: they colored a map on a piece of paper and then programmed the bot to follow the lines drawn.

The STEM lessons have received a lot of positive attention and feedback, as it is evident the lessons can be used to encompass and further the curriculum. Mrs. Dawkins says, “The foundation of teaching is in the four Cs: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity. STEM encompasses these four Cs really well.” The Indian Hill Foundation has given funds for next year that will go toward the STEM projects, and the school has received a Learning Links Grant for the lessons. The idea is to keep the lessons mostly low-tech, but with the funds they will have the opportunity to integrate the high-tech activities, like the Ozo Bots. Library aide Jen Anders and Mrs. Dawkins will also be designing a Maker Space cart that’s portable, so teachers can check out the cart with the STEM lesson on it and bring the cart back to the classroom, allowing lessons to continue on even after the once-a-month scheduled time.

Mrs. Dawkins finishes by saying, “I feel like it’s such a win-win situation, not only for the kids but for the teachers. The teachers have been able to see skills in their students they might not have seen otherwise. It’s given all the students a platform to really shine.”