Claire is a STEM Specialist and a fifth and sixth grade Math Teacher at Highland Elementary School in Montgomery County, MD. Highland Elementary School is located in Silver Spring, MD approximately 12 miles north of Washington, D.C., and is home to a culturally diverse population of over 530 students in Pre-K through fifth grade, more than 80% of which speak a second language.
Claire started as a 5th grade classroom teacher before becoming a STEM teacher. Her motivation to teach STEM is rooted in her belief that all children are natural explorers and innovators. When given the opportunity, their innate sense of wonder and curiosity can pair seamlessly with STEM inquiry.
I am teaching STEM to grades three to five and get to see over 275 children per week. I have done some coding before but I am definitely not a specialist: I was learning the Robo Wunderkind system with my kids as I was teaching it. Robo Wunderkind is pretty intuitive in terms of the way things are color coded as well to help you understand how they work. I would say that this system would work also for educators with zero experience with code. There's not a lot of pieces to worry about, there's not a lot of language to worry about. It's really just as you play: you'll learn and you'll learn with the kids.
The STEAM hub by Robo Wunderkind that hosts all the content resources is a really good online support system: lots of lessons that you can work with and modify to work in your own right level. I used the STEAM hub like a resource bank: I would pick and choose what would work for my time limit and for my grade levels. Whereas normally for my STEAM and STEM lessons, I have to start from nothing and prepare everything by myself, Robo Wunderkind STEAM hub was for me like a candy bag of resources to pick through.
I wouldn't say that I used the lessons all the way through, but I definitely took the ideas and made it work for my classroom, which I think was really good because nobody's going to be teaching this in the same way. So I think the fact that curriculum resources are designed as a suggestion so that we could take what we wanted and alter it into our own style or for our own needs was really helpful, and it gave me a great starting point.
What I could accomplish in 45 mins
I think it is different for every teacher because every teacher has different time frames. I meet children for 45 minutes every week and I don't want to be up front teaching for more than 10-12 minutes. I want kids to have hands-on experience. For my environment it worked really well to do challenges and builds and get them excited about coding, seeing those things come to real life, and robotics. We would then add pieces of science or little pieces of math or stories.
For my needs, I broke down lessons from the STEAM hub into smaller pieces and I would do a very gradual build-up of activities. I would introduce the chicken project, how to build it, and then how to control it in the Live interface and do the simplest thing: how to make it rotate. Next time, I would ask to do the same, but in the Code interface - which is visual coding that does not require reading skills.
Robo Wunderkind is a unique modular robotic system: it's very student driven and it has a lot of entry points and possibilities to make connections to other concepts. I would give a simple prompt to a kid and they could figure out a way to extend their knowledge without me doing a whole new lesson for that. I could come in where they are without having my whole lesson go to chaos. I also think that the app is really well done: having three different kinds of coding is really unique. It really allows for growth and great ways for students to enter the world of coding and to grow.
Opportunity to shine for children that are not fluent in English
A general thing that I noticed while working with Robo Wunderkind is that I really saw leadership qualities emerge in my students that I hadn't seen before. We worked with code.org and Ozobots, but it was different this time. I felt that they really came out of their shells and enjoyed the robotics element of what we were doing. They were able to show something and express their ideas without necessarily needing to know all that academic vocabulary. I saw kids leading groups that might not necessarily have done that in other situations.Robo Wunderkind gave every student an opportunity to be a leader.
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