Increasing Student Interest Through Robotics
Faced with a desire to make schoolwork more interesting for her son, Shanon Cimbura, a homeschool parent from North Carolina, decided to create an elementary robotics club that would spur hands-on learning.
“Things like engineering, science, and problem solving are not easily taught straight out of a book,” said Cimbura. “I was looking for a way to make schooling more fun and interesting, more hands on. I was hoping LEGO® Education would have a solution that included everything I needed, and of course they did!”
Armed with five LEGO Education WeDo™ Robotics Construction Sets and the corresponding activity pack, Cimbura developed a monthly robotics club for her son and nine other homeschool students in her area.
“In the beginning it was hard to sell parents on the thought that LEGO could be educational,” Cimbura admitted. “When I started in September, I kind of got the ‘I don’t want to take out of my school day two hours to put together LEGO bricks,’ but now I’ve gotten ‘Can we start doing this once a week?’ Parents are really seeing how it’s not just playing with LEGOs.”
To help her showcase the system’s learning value, Cimbura shares with parents each lesson’s learning grid, which outlines the subject areas and specific objectives a student learns during each lesson.
“I had a kid get picked up this past week, and he told his mom that he didn’t have to do math that day because he did measuring and adding for the distance of the ball the soccer play kicked, plus the estimation for the goals and things like that,” shared Cimbura. “And his mom looked at me and was like ‘You did that today?’ So, to be able to have that outline is wonderful.”
And not just to share with parents. “[The grid] is great for me as well,” Cimbura added. “Even though I’m involved and I know math was used here or we explored science there, you don’t recognize everything that we are doing.” The teacher materials share vocabulary terms, offer teacher notes, and include standards correlations. “To see those kinds of things makes you realize how many subjects you are covering, and how much students are learning.”
With the LEGO Education WeDo Robotics system, students build simple machines featuring working motors and sensors and program their models using WeDo software. The activity pack, which includes 12 activities, explores four different themes: Amazing Mechanisms, Wild Animals, Play Soccer, and Adventure Stories.
“With the WeDo activities, even though there are 12 activities in the set for the kids to build, I’ve found that they don’t care if they build the same thing over and over again because they will modify it themselves,” remarked Cimbura. “For instance, we did the soccer goal and soccer player and even though they completed that, the kids want to do it again because now they want to come up with a different kind of ball or a new program, so their interest was really piqued way beyond what just was in the set.”
So what are some of the greatest benefits Cimbura has seen since starting the monthly robotics club? “The kids self-drive to learn.”
She adds, “I don’t have to motivate them; they’re motivated themselves. They want to explore. They want to build. They want to problem solve. You pull the software up and they have to figure out not only how to make [the model] go up, but they have to make it go down. So it’s not me having to sit there and say do this, do this, do this. When they are self-motivated, they learn more because they want to learn it and then they retain better. And it’s exciting to them!”
When asked what some of the advantages the LEGO Education product portfolio offers homeschoolers, Cimbura responded, “I think it is outside of what is available in normal curriculum. When we think of schooling, we think of a math book or a computer program or a microscope. And this takes students beyond that. It takes them into engineering. It takes them into creativity. It takes them into problem solving. It takes a lot of them into their first experience with computer programming, so it’s way above and beyond what you expect to be the norm in schooling.”
For more information about the WeDo Robotics system for homeschool, visit www.LEGOeducation.us/Homeschool.