Walk into Becky Wilson’s STEAM or Robotics class at Three Creeks K-8 and you will see engaged students, seamless technology use, and computer science in action. Students are collaborating, designing, iterating and problem solving. This week's Ed Tech blog highlights a morning spent with Becky Wilson, STEM teacher at Three Creeks K-8 in Arvada. Becky teaches STEAM, Robotics, and Digital Design classes.
First Period: STEAM and IF/ELSE Statements
Her morning kicks off with her STEAM class of 6th graders, focusing on conditionals in programming. What better way to learn this than an active game of Red Light, Green Light with a twist? Students adjourned to the basketball court to partake in a quick warm up. With Becky Wilson at the forefront, students practiced conditionals in action--
"If you are wearing long pants take one step forward, else take 1 step backward". Utilizing this game, students learn in an unplugged manner, incorporating movement, and reaching kinesthetic learners to help create transfer for a difficult concept.
When they came in students were given 6 minutes to illustrate IF/Then statements about the weather. They chose different mediums to answer- some answered on paper, some on the table, some on an ipad app. Whichever the medium, the result was imported into their journal in Book Creator.
Next, students learned about variables by programming micro:Bits to play the classic game, “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. Becky asked her students, “What is the variable that changes each time you play? How do we program the computer to select this variable randomly?”. Students programmed micro:Bits, a pocket sized microcontroller that holds one program at a time. Using MakeCode students can code in block-based or text-based programming. Since her students gave her feedback that they appreciated when they had a choice in their learning, they were given a choice board of different tasks that they could program the micro:Bit to do after programming their game.
Second Period: ROBOTICS- CUE to the rescue!
Next her class of Robotics students arrived, consisting of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Students were given a real-life scenario, using robots in search and rescue missions. Using cardboard and legos, pairs of students needed to program a CUE robot to sense obstacles and rescue a mini Lego figure. Teams needed to follow the design process to ideate, plan, build, test, and refine their mission.
They have to work with constraints- the robot should be able to perform the rescue by themselves from the code, humans can't get into all places for rescue, we need to code the robot to assist.
Good instruction is evident in everything the kids are doing; real world tasks, learning for a purpose, using the design cycle, dealing with constraints and persevering through a problem. Teams presented their rescue mission to the class, talking through their design process, planning with pseudocode. and casting their code to the projector for other students to see. They were frustrated with constraints from time and materials, but they learn to work through them. They have some video footage of successful runs in case it does not work correctly when they are presenting.
"They learn that the end product does not have to be perfect but that what they learned and how they solved the problem is the focus and the real winner."- Becky Wilson
ready for the rescue
A Reflection from Becky
"The authenticity of learning is so evident when kids are problem solving through robotics. The immediate feedback that they get from video games and their world, they get with robots, which leads to a higher level of engagement. At first, I designed this big complex project but stopped and said why am I doing all the work? I put the cognitive load on the students, the assignment was better because I put it on them.
I have been finding ways to differentiate for my students that need to be pushed. Most are willing to persevere, some have that and are ready for the next piece. I think you need to keep kids where they need to be so they are not overwhelmed, and keep them working toward creating intrinsic motivation to challenge themselves to take on the next level."
When asked how they would change their search and rescue mission--most said they would have added more obstacles to make their code more complex.
You gotta love when students say they would do more work and make it harder! Thanks Becky!!!