Can you teach a robot to speak Spanish? At Missoula International School, students use computer software and LEGOS® to build robots programmed to solve real-life problems in a total Spanish immersion classroom. K-1 teacher John Kratz pioneered the program at MIS in 2013; today it’s being integrated into every classroom and offered in after-school and summer camps.
“We asked our teachers to bring their passions to the table to increase creativity and collaboration and enhance technology,” says Head of School Julie Lennox. “John’s work closely aligned with our Spanish Immersion International Baccalaureate Program and our mission, vision, and values.”
“Robots present diverse possibilities,” says Mr. Katz. “Students can create scientific instruments that gather data from the environment, moving vehicles that accomplish tasks, and musical instruments.” It also promotes genuine language use, which comes alive when a workshop is in full swing. For students such as second grader Sylvie, Spanish fluency comes naturally while she creates robots that can perform a variety of functions and interact with each other. She can design unique robotic characters, then write and illustrate creative stories about them in Spanish.
In addition to LEGO® robotics, MIS teachers use other creative design tools in their Spanish immersion classrooms at all age levels, including Scratch, digital audio and video production, and 3D printing to develop fluency in Spanish and technology. Students learn that computers are not only for finding information. Design-based technology learning instills the notion that computers and technology can be used to create useful inventions, games, and toys.