Project Based Learning, Kids, and Robots

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And here we are! As promised here is one of the project based learning lessons with Sphero Robots. 

 As mentioned in previous posts I have been introduced to Project Based Learning and I have fallen in love! Project Based Learning, or PBL, is a teaching method that allows students to learn and respond to challenges, problems and questions while gaining deeper understanding and knowledge. Students are more in control over what they are learning which gives them a stronger sense of ownership. The "project" part of PBL learning is the main course, not the dessert. They are learning through the project. I am by no means an expert so if you want to know more here is a great ASCD webinar that can help give you much more information: PBL Webinar

With that said PBL is not always the easiest way to teach young students. I provide much of the research and give them more of a guide than I would older students. To me though, it is still just as important to help our young kiddos learn and create this way, as our older ones. Why not give them independence, perseverance, and problem-solving skills right from the beginning?

 Like all lessons we have objectives we want students to learn. Meeting the Common Core standards I'm after is the major goal, but I also had some other goals I wanted to meet: Since we live in a farming community and I have many boys I wanted to incorporate farming somehow. I also wanted to add some fun technology that will help students with their project, not just for a fun wow factor. So I have been working hard in my education laboratory (the couch while binge watching Netflix) on a PBL farming lesson with Sphero Robots. With a little work, research and out-of-the-box thinking I came up with our Cottonwood United for Farmers or (CUFF) PBL lesson. 

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To start I introduced our fictional company CUFF and gave students our company mission: A global company dedicated to helping farmers around the world. We got into imagination mode and pretended we were business men and women in a large company. Our goal: to help farmers of other countries. I developed 5 differentiated country farm close reads that we read, discussed, reread and highlighted to find our main ideas and key details which helped us find the countries farming issues. 

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The next step. I also created help sources for students to close read again and then pull relevant information from that would help them develop a plan to help their countries improve their farming methods. Some countries had multiple issues so advanced students had to read and use multiple sources. Since I do have some farm boys in my room we also discussed using what we already know to help us out.  We discussed collaboration and used our other teammates as information sources too! 

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Finally we went back, looked at our information in our graphic organizers and developed and wrote about a formal paper with multi-paragraphs (depending on the grade) using multiple sources. In our papers we presented our major problems and what our solution would be to fix them. And WOW! I cannot believe how deeply they grasped the countries problems, sometimes there were several, and then were able to find creative and realistic solutions. I would have liked students to present our projects more than just orally, but unfortunately time constraints didn't allow that. Previously we have made posters, Power Points and even videos.

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To take our lesson to even higher levels, add some techno fun and even more problem solving skills I threw in our Sphero Robots. Our last step was to discuss modern farming and how these technologies could help our countries. Our new CUFF task: Use the Sphero Robots to create modern farm equipment to help our countries problems. I was lucky enough to be able to pair my 1-3rd graders with the older 4-8 students to develop their farm machinery. Our building materials: wooden dowels, CDs, wooden circles, washers, straws, card board and hot glue guns. And finally: Go to work!

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And the results? Out of this world! Amazing! Words cannot even describe! All team got functional farm equipment pulled or pushed by a Sphero Robot. Most equipment robots had great strategies to solve a wide range of farming problems. Sometimes multiple mistakes were made and back to the drawing board it was. Sometimes it worked, but they always saw ways they could improve, until their machinery was magnificent. A wonderful day with learning students could have ownership and pride in. 

Tags: reading, Robots , Writing, Project Based Learning