Two young girls program a robot to complete a task in their classroom.

Two young girls program a robot to complete a task in their classroom.

How robots and our school’s buddy program bring computer science to life

Pairing kindergarten and grade 5 students together to code and play with robots turns into a rich computer science experience for everyone

Coding and robots are both natural tools for encouraging collaboration in the classroom. At Sewickley Academy, we have taken that collaboration to the next level by having Grade 5 students step into mentoring roles for our kindergarteners who are just being introduced to computer science. Here’s how we did it.

From Reading to Robotics

Recently, our PreK through Grade 12 independent school has been working to include more computer science opportunities across all grade levels. These classes are a distinguishing factor of a Sewickley Academy education.

When students, especially our youngest learners, work with robotics, they are learning coding skills through what they see as fun play. With the excitement of bringing these little robots to life, they often don’t realize that they are learning foundational concepts and skills that future STEM learning will build upon.

We started with one KIBO, which is a modular robot designed to be used in education. KIBOs can be programmed visually using wooden coding blocks printed with various movement and behavior commands. They are great for students who are still learning to read and are a fun and easy way to bring robotics and coding into the classroom with our youngest learners.

Grade 5 and kindergarten homeroom teachers had already been working together to pair the older students with younger learners to read to them. Both groups of students were thoroughly enjoying the partnership and it seemed natural to progress from reading to robotics. The kindergarten teachers asked the Grade 5 students to first explore the robot, then help their younger buddies participate in the experience. We purchased enough KIBO kits to allow 10 teams to code and play together.