At Live Oak Elementary School, robots played unique tunes on xylophones that were programmed and coded by the hands of 10-and 11-year olds.
Fifth grade students in Rick Navarrette’s class experienced the hands-on 21st century learning as part of a partnership between College of the Canyon’s TEACH program and the Castaic Union School District.
The program’s robots and iPads were financially supported by COC’s Technology Innovation fund and the Castaic Education Foundation.
Taught by the TEACH program’s future educators, the six-day course included Dot and Dash coding robots and curriculum where students learned the concepts of algorithm design, command sequences and control flow, sensors and events, problem solving, loops and conditionals.
“All of the students here that are part of this are part of the TEACH program,” said Renee Marshall, COC’s director of Teacher Preparation Pipeline STEM/CTE Project. “It’s like teaching for them. They feel like they’re impacting children positively from the start.”
COC students involved in the field site completed six hours of training before introducing the curriculum to the classroom. Through the TEACH field sites, COC students gain experience in a real-world teaching environment with students of all ages.
“It showed me what area I want to teach in,” said Logan Martell, a COC teacher in training who is in his first year with the on-site program. “Going into TEACH I wanted to teach high school students, but now I want to do more middle-school aged kids.”
Fellow teacher-in-training Milcah White, who is taking classes at both COC and CSUN to receive her master’s in speech pathology, said she is already seeing the benefits of the program.
“I’m excited about it and to be a part of this group,” she said. “You can see how ancillary devices are going to bring students out of the classroom.”
The program does more than support future educators; it also teaches elementary school students the value of creativity, collaboration and communications.
“STEM-related science is such a fantastic way to do troubleshooting and problem solving,” said Sondra Duenez, who has been involved with the TEACH program for six years as a volunteer and student teacher. “I love that the kids try to figure things out and that they’re so detailed with their questions and approach.”
According to Marshall, collaboration is what 21st century learning is all about.
“We want them to work together, to problem solve because that is what will be needed from them in the workforce,” she said. “I love the kids getting to be a part of something they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.”
Using free applications called Wonder, Blocky and Xylo students learn the different functionalities and programming options of the robots.
“It’s shown them that coding isn’t all words and numbers,” said Martell. “It can create something so real.”
On Tuesday, the final day of the TEACH partnership, students in Navarrette’s class were given the freedom to code what they wanted to and discover new control through the robots’ applications.
Lily Marshall, Elli Richard and Vanessa Stephenson gushed over what they could program the robot Dot and Dash to do from colors and lights to singing and dancing.
“He can be different colors,” Lily Marshall said. “You can program it to do the back light and the front lights.”
“He can dance, he can sing, he can go in a maze,” Stephenson followed. “It can pick up stuff as a bulldozer too.”
A team of Nadalie Arnijl, Arma Sandoval and Chloe Coffey worked for most of the hour trying to code the Dash robot to move around a panda eraser and several obstacles on the classroom floor.
“We’re trying to make it go around the panda and obstacles,” Arnijl said. “It works sometimes, but we have to go back and change measurements.”
Conrad Blackwell and Daniel Mazor used the iPad controls to move the Dash robot around the room and program it to play music. Both boys said they had some experience with coding before the class, but that this sparked their interest in the subject even more.
“I want Dash for Christmas,” Mazor said. “I’m going to take a coding class this year so I can do more.”
Blackwell, who has his own robot at home, said he will continue to code after the TEACH program leaves.
“I love this now,” he said. “This is really fun.”
At the end of the hour on the last class of the program, students looked disappointed that the robots, the iPads and the COC TEACH personnel would be leaving their classroom.
“Can you please come back in the spring?” Blackwell asked the teachers, with declarations of support from his peers.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Renee Marshall replied.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_