EVART – With a push from the Michigan government, programming and engineering have become a main part of the curriculum for Evart Elementary School.
Starting with making towers and just getting into robotics and programming, fourth graders at Evart Elementary take two science classes to get kids excited for programming with Dash and Dot robots from Wonder Workshop.
“When Michigan came out with its new standards, there was a real emphasis on coding,” said first-year fourth-grade science teacher Josh Johnston. “If you’re not teaching them coding you are doing them a disservice.”
The students alternate between “your classic sciences,” said Johnston, and programming.
Before they opened up their robots for the first time on Tuesday, the kids were working on building towers out of toothpicks and marshmallows and figuring out tension with spaghetti.
Working together, students tried to come up with the best design by using the least amount of materials in the given amount of space.
“It is really cool hearing what each student takes away from the lessons,” said Johnston as he discussed a student’s reflection notes and her focus on teamwork. “Ultimately, the goal is to get them to start problem-solving on a different level then they have before.”
As the year goes on, Johnston hopes to get the students programming and applying what they have learned.
“I would like to get them to be able to code their own simple video games,” he said. “Just as another way to show them how what they have learned can apply to other things than just the robots.”
The Dash and Dot robots can be programmed by the students to move and use a variety of objects provided in different kits. And they do it all using a programming app on a tablet.
An earlier goal for Johnston’s fourth-graders is to have them compete in a competition later in the school year. The deadline to enter is in December.
“Normally, competitions would be for the older kids,” said Johnston, “but I think we can be ready in time for the Wonder Workshop competition and give the kids something to really work towards and get excited about.”