Coding Across Curriculum Lines

What is it that you do when you acquire 9 kits of Hummingbird robotics kits?  You CODE! A year ago, my school received a grant to purchase Hummingbirds for our elementary school.  Purchasing the kits was the easy part, then became the hard, very rewarding, drive to incorporate them into our classroom practices.  We did some trial runs and gave students free reign to build whatever it is they wanted. This was awesome when it comes to the 4Cs. Students had to be creative since they were given no major restrictions or guidelines, they had to collaborate and communicate to design and build their project, and they definitely had to use some critical thinking when something didn’t work quite the way they expected.  What was accomplished blew us away! Those students rose to the occasion with some wonderful robotic projects. We chalked this up as a total success, so going into this year we knew we had to try something more.

A meeting between the Art teachers, 4th grade science teachers, and librarians happened around mid-October as the Art teachers were planning out the projects to get them to our ever-so-popular Art & Curriculum Show.  We decided on a cross-curricular project involving all three content areas. Students would complete some research in the library and do some designing of their robots, then it would be off to the Art room where they would have several weeks to build and code their robot out of recycled materials (our building theme was recycling this year), and then they would do the programming in science class.   

I’ll be the first to tell you that coordinating an entire 4th grade class along with two Art and two Library teachers is not easy, but the result was worth it!  Students came together in groups of 5 or 6 and probably spent a total of 6-8 hours working on this project (spread out over several weeks), bringing their recycled Marvels to life! We had animals and airplanes and racetracks and even Marshmello the DJ, and each one was very unique!  Without the 4Cs being a priority, none of this would have been possible.

Fast forward to our Art & Curriculum Show (as I run around like crazy trying to get all these robots ready & set up).  At 6:00 PM, the crowds of families and students came rushing in to check out their artwork, purchase books at the book fair and even support our PFA and Make-A-Wish events.  As families came to the robots, I heard oohs and aahs, laughs, parents asking questions about what they created and how we did it. It was fantastic! Students came to showcase their group’s robot to their families, sometimes even showing them other groups’ robots from their class.  Everyone was impressed. I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Amazingly enough, it just took a small idea to start us down this path.  Did it take time? Absolutely, it took time, planning, and collaboration and cooperation amongst the staff.  It took “buy-in” to make it all work. It took a little controlled chaos (a term I use very often), to really see what these students could do when they are turned loose, and we’ve already started planning for next year’s projects. I’m so glad to have teacher and administration who support trying new things in an effort to provide better learning experiences for our students!  I can’t wait to keep using the hummingbirds in the future!

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