3 activities that will turn classroom robots into SEL power tools

If I had an educational tool at my disposal in a classroom besides pencils, papers and books, it would be an educational robot. A robot is the most engaging learning tool I have used with students. It is aimed at children of all ages, genders and backgrounds, and it goes beyond technology to include so many learning goals. In fact, when I was in pre-K-8 Park School, I considered this to be one of the most important socio-emotional learning tools I used.

Teachers’ time is so stretched, especially at the start of a new school year, that teaching with a robot may not be on their lists of must-do activities. But robotics can be easily integrated into teaching. As a lead makerspace educator, I have found that the best way to help teachers integrate robots into their lessons is to identify the skills they are looking to teach and demonstrate how they can achieve this with class robots.

As students return to class after a tumultuous and traumatic year, SEL is going to be especially important. Here are some activities that have helped teachers in my school connect STEAM and SEL.

Use simple challenges to inspire complex social interactions

I’ve always found math to be a great entry point for introducing robots to early childhood classrooms. When the teacher takes the measurement, we take out KIBO, a robot that we use in our school, and see how far it can go in one “step” or forward command.

One of the things I love about this exercise is that it doesn’t require any specialized equipment apart from the robot. KIBO is screenless, so each team of two or three students is given a robot, the three programming blocks needed to achieve their goal, and a worksheet to help them stay focused.

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