Why start with the first grade?

13 Jan

While there are no words to truly describe my excitement over the kick-off of our first grade robotics unit, for the sake of the blog I’ll try to gather a few.

I have been pushing for a first grade robotics program since I arrived on campus last September. I want this program right from the start of our students’ “formal” education, right from Grade 1.

Not because it will improve the schools’ “STEM curriculum” and make us more attractive to prospective parents, funders, or partners. (Even though it could.)

Not because it will lead to more minority or female engineers and computer scientists entering the workforce in 22 years. (Even though it might.)

Not because it will increase students’ understanding of mathematical and scientific principles. (Even though it probably will.)

And definitely not because it will improve standardized test scores. (Because, quite frankly,  I’m not a big advocate of standardized tests.)

I have pushed for this program because I believe it will provide an outlet through which we will be able to promote and foster  the development of crucial learning strategies, social skills, and life skills in our students. We can use it to facilitate each learners’ development of a  healthy self-concept.

This matters. The other stuff is just frosting on the cake.

During this unit students will collaborate, touch, share, imagine, try, build, follow blueprints, observe, articulate, think about the world around them, think about problems, wonder about solutions, use the language of a discipline, experience intrinsic joy, experience consequences, ask questions, design, create, build, predict, play, take care of materials, organize, classify, sort, read, write, fail, and succeed…

And that’s where I really want their education to start.

I want us to reach students before they have an opportunity to become convinced that math is hard, or that science sucks, or that some kids’  ideas are valuable while others aren’t, or that you can’t trust people, and that if it you don’t get it right away you’re probably not good at it, or that… well, you probably see where I’m going with this.

And that’s where I’ll leave this kick-off post.

In the future, I’ll give you the practical stuff including links to lesson plans, photos, reflections and more.

Wish me luck.


4 Responses to “Why start with the first grade?”

  1. Sarah Kinder January 21, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    I have really enjoyed reading your posts about starting a robotics program with 1st graders! I wonder what kits you are using? From the photos it looks like 2 students per kit – is that right? We start in 6th grade, but have some simple lego kits for younger, I’ve always wondered how I’d start younger – and you are quite an inspiration! thanks for sharing!

    • missgreer January 21, 2011 at 3:52 am #

      Thanks Sarah! We are using kits called LEGO WeDo kits which include a motor, two sensors, and a USB hub. http://education.lego.com/en-gb/preschool-and-school/lower-primary-4-7/7plus-lego-education-wedo/ I use a combination of the LEGO curriculum that comes with the educational pack along with my own. If you are local to Philadelphia, we could exchange site visits. I’d love to see what you are doing with your sixth grade.

      • Sarah Kinder January 23, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

        Stephanie – I am not currently running the Middle School program – and I think they do their work in an after school club in the fall. Right now I teach Microworlds to 4th graders and to a wider age group in a summer program. I think it gets kids used to programming and ready for robotics. I’ve used Lego kits with 3rd graders – exploring gears, wheels and axles, etc. but never more than that. I looked at the link you sent – thanks so much! I’d love to get together. I can show you what I do with LS, and speak to the MS and US program, but not sure they are actively doing anything this term.

        • missgreer January 24, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

          This sounds great! Let’s continue the conversation via e-mail. Glad you found the blog. 🙂

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