Teaching kids to be STEAM-SMART, with Hardwick Green Primary Academy
When we at Robo Wunderkind think of what being smart means today, we have the answer at hand. It means adopting versatile 21-century skills for every sphere of life while also having fun! The UK-based Hardwick Green Primary Academy has a very similar idea, which is why Robo Wunderkind was such a great fit for their classrooms. Learn more about their experience!
The Hardwick Green Primary Academy is a forward-thinking primary school in the UK whose main goal is to challenge children to be their smartest selves. And not just any kind of smart. The Hardwick Academy has created their own acronym for SMART, where S stands for success, M for motivation, A for ambition, R for respect, and T for trust. Their holistic approach to early education thus helps pupils discover their talents, strengthen knowledge, while also training their soft and social skills.
In other words, it’s only a matter of time until such a modern institution incorporates STEM into their teaching.
We’re happy to say that they chose us, and have been using the Robo Wunderkind kits for a full half-term together with their pupils. The kits were provided to them by our UK-based partner Creative Hut and the school has since shared raving reviews of how Robo Wunderkind altered the course of their computing lessons. We talked to Sophie Dunning, the computing specialist teacher at Hardwick, who used the kits in her classes, to get the details.
She told us 70 pupils experienced classes with Robo Wunderkind in total, and from that engagement only, she was able to conclude that not only did Robo Wunderkind bring an innovative element to her classes, but that it also increased the engagement with subject matter of students during class, helped bring up the grades of students, and encouraged more girls to be interested in the subject of computing. Ms Dunning used the existing Robo Wunderkind curriculum as well as planning her own lessons, and had many positive insights to share about the whole experience.
‘All children found the hands on learning more accessible and quickly picked up on coding techniques when compared to computer based scratch programming where they cant hold the equipment. Girls especially found this more appealing and were just as good as the boys.’
Working on achieving gender equality in STEM is one of our core goals, which is why we were elated to hear about these observations. But of course, it’s not just that which made the students and teacher so excited to use Robo Wunderkind as a teaching tool. Ms Dunning said the children ‘LOVED’ using the equipment, and, more importantly, she felt that while using Robo Wunderkind, they didn’t even realize they were learning advanced coding, being so engaged with the equipment itself. We always stress the importance of learning through play for primary school-aged children, as it is the more natural way for them to learn and retain knowledge.
The children’s own perspective is no less valuable, naturally, which is why we collected the impressions of Ms Dunning’s pupils as well. They said they used Robo Wunderkind to build their own animals, but also machinery, such as cars, trains, rockets and amazing creatures like dragons. By doing so, they learned about code, angles, degrees, and the basics of robotics. One pupil told us they were ‘building our own robots and making them move using an iPad. It made what we learned in maths more fun and we understand angles better now.’
When asked what her favorite aspects of using Robo Wunderkind were, Ms Dunning responded with several. Namely, durability and packaging, as well as simplicity.
‘The equipment feels of strong, robust quality and I would be confident using this in any year group. Other computing equipment can sometimes feel like it would easily be damaged in little hands and therefore not worth the money spent on it. Robo Wunderkind will last the test of time and can survive bumps, drops or in our school, accidentally stood on!’
From her experience with other educational tools, Ms Dunning has concluded that in comparison, Robo Wunderkind has been proved to ‘just work’ – without too much hassle. This is vital, because we often just think of pupils and their ability to absorb new teaching tools, such as those that teach STEM. But we tend to forget that teachers (who may not always be digital natives) need to feel at ease with new technology as well, and perhaps first and foremost, before passing their knowledge on to younger minds.
‘With Robo everything is straightforward, once connected to an iPad, when you plug in a block, it instantly appears in real time on the iPad. The staff I have demonstrated too feel confident that they would be able to deliver a lesson using Robo because of this feature. There is no faffing about installing software or contending with a million wires and most importantly the teacher doesn't need to have a wealth of computer knowledge to be able to teach using coding.’
The last and perhaps most important aspect every teacher considers is the compatibility of a new tool with their existing curriculum. We have always considered this thoroughly as well, working together with experts in respective regions to deliver a product that fits seamlessly into existing educational paths. ‘I feel the curriculum links really well with Primary Maths and in most lessons children made these links themselves,’ Ms Dunning reported, suggesting that this link be broadened to other, new subjects, to make the curriculum even more appealing for UK schools.
Our very favorite feedback came from the eager young programmers, who, when asked what they would like Robo Wunderkind used for, answered enthusiastically – ’In every lesson, every day!’
And if that isn’t the best kind of motivation to keep on creating wonderful teaching tools for bright young minds, then we don’t know what is!
All children found the hands on learning more accessible and quickly picked up on coding techniques when compared to computer based scratch programming where they cant hold the equipment. Girls especially found this more appealing and were just as good as the boys.
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