My fourth graders were able to participate in a combination of the Finch Loan Program and the Global Read Aloud, a collaborative event where schools read the same book for six weeks in October-November. We decided to read The Wild Robot and to connect the Finches to the story.
As part of a graduate course I took the summer of 2016, I had created some lessons that linked The Wild Robot to a few STEM challenge activities designed to introduce elementary-level students to working with robots, engineering, and environmental awareness. When I became part of the Finch Robot Loan Program, I simply adjusted a robot-focused activity to allow students to use the Finches while still being able to connect to The Wild Robot. It was a great pairing!
The goals of the Finch Robot activities were to help students learn how the Finch operations, to learn some basic programming (we used Snap!), and to complete a challenging task collaboratively. Students could choose to join one of two projects: 1) Use Finch Robot to retell a portion of The Wild Robot story, or 2) Use Finch Robot to maneuver the geographic features found in the setting of The Wild Robot. Eleven students were participating in this challenge, and, fortunately, they were able to choose the project they wanted and have teams that were pretty even.
Students first learned how to use the Finch Robot and the block-based programming, Snap! They did some planning of their projects and then got to work creating the props they would need for their videos. As some students worked on props, others began planning the scripts for the video and started working on the programming that would allow the Finch to tell their stories. Deadlines had to be extended due to the amount of time needed to successfully complete each part of the projects as well as to accommodate for other activities, absences, etc., that took away time. By winter break, however, the students had recorded all the clips they needed to assemble, as best they could, a finished project. As of today, they have not had a chance to do the video editing, but they will very soon. I plan to share the videos as soon as they area ready - so stay tuned!
While our timeline was not quite what I had planned, I was thrilled with the learning that has taken place along the way. Here are some thoughts about long-term projects and about using the Finch Robots in the classroom.
- While deadlines are important, when possible, give kids the time they need to try things, make mistakes, stall, rework their ideas. Also, reserve time at the end of the project for all to reflect on the process and think about how to improve how they work for future projects.
- When kids are given the chance to work with materials, such as the Finch Robot, you can see how excited they are about what they are doing. They commit to the task and have fun as they learn.
- The fourth graders had a hard time making their ideas work. That's OK. They got frustrated at times, and they were sometimes impatient with their teammates. As their teacher, I provided guidance on how to use the robot and Snap! as well as how to work together and to move forward when things were difficult. I'll admit that sometimes it was hard to resist jumping in and saving the day when things were a bit rough. By allowing the children to work through their problems, they learned valuable collaborative skills.
- I enjoyed observing the children as they worked. From the planning, to designing props, to programming, to filming, they showed growth and perseverance. They all had a chance to share their ideas and to have their voices heard. They truly took ownership of their work.
- The students learned that it's OK to "mess up." Sometimes their ideas didn't quite work out. They had to keep returning to the drawing board to adjust their programming or their props, to re-record their narration and to re-re-record their narration. Once they got into the flow of the trial and error process, it was hard to get them to stop working.
- I plan to continue to use the Finch Robot in my fourth grade class as well as in some of my other classes. It has definitely been a great addition to our school! I am very thankful to the staff at BirdBrain Technologies for all their support and advice. What a great team to work with!
|The Robots Arrive - Each student got to name his or her own Finch.|
|Students were able to connect the Finch projects to something else: digital fabrication. Thanks to grants from the Council Rock Education Foundation and the National Education Association, as well as funds from the Fab@School Match Grant Program, our school is working to create digital fabrication stations that use Fab@School Maker Studio. These students needed wooden crates for their story - so they made them!|
|Trying Out a Ramp|
|A View From Above|
|Props for the Geography Tour|
|The scenes are coming along.|
|Almost Ready - Remember to stay tuned for the finished videos!|