I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve uttered those sentences in the past two weeks. I can tell you how delighted I’ve been with the results.
I borrowed a class set of Cubelets from our county wide Center for Instruction, Technology and Innovation (Citi) to inject some fun, hands-on, inquiry based, learning into state test month for my third and fourth graders. I started by having them finishing the sentence, “A robot is __________.” We then had a lively discussion of what a robot is or is not. Is a vacuum cleaner, a remote control car, a toaster, a robot? Why or why not? (I’m sure my students feel like I’m an annoying five year old because I always ask them why.)
I showed them a video of the Roomba vacuum cleaner and we discussed why they all agree that THAT is a robot, but can’t agree about the vacuum cleaner the custodian uses. How are the two different? The Roomba navigates a room on its own. The custodian’s vacuum requires human guidance. Eventually we came to agree that, by definition, a robot needs power, senses, and actions. Conveniently, these terms match the types of blocks in the Cubelets set.
The following weeks I distributed the six piece Cubelets sets to groups of 4-5 and let them explore. Depending on the class I might have started them with a challenge, such as “Build me a motion activated light.” but I mostly let them learn by trial and error. And boy did they learn!
Here are a couple of examples of their creations!
Do you do anything special in your library to relieve the state testing tension in your building?