Like all students at the thematically driven Charles River School, PreKindergarteners are encouraged to ask questions, explore concepts with a hands-on approach, and reflect freely on what they learn and understand. This approach was the backbone of a robotics theme that was first introduced last year and will continue with this year’s PreK class. Teachers Karen Belsely Pratt and Vanita Srikanth, in consultation with technology director Steve Trust, developed a robotics theme that encompassed the curriculum areas of engineering, math, language arts, physics, architecture, music, drama and art.
One aspect of the theme utilized TerrapinLogo’s child-centered robot, the “Bee-bot.” The children learned simple coding, which the teachers defined for the children as the “directions” that make robots work. Using large flat vinyl polyspots and arrows, they mapped out a language of simple directions: forward, backward, right, left, stop and go. Arrows and circles were initially laid out on the floor to create journeys and obstacle courses. Once the children were comfortable “reading” the symbols, the arrows were moved off to the side to create linear sequences of “code” to follow. The arrows ultimately gave way to pen and paper, and then the programmable Bee-bots themselves.
The Charles River School teachers note that planning, coding and implementing a Bee-bot “journey” takes a collection of skills that are right on the outside edge of typical four and five year old development. Sequencing steps, repeating patterns, visualizing more than one step in advance, building upon a series of directions, determining the shortest route; these were challenging skills that took time and support for the students to develop.