I am an engineering specialist for kindergarten through 5th grade students. Much as they would go to P.E. or Music weekly, my students come to my lab once a week for an hour each time. I see a total of 530 students, 300 of which use my LEGO Mindstorms NXT.
Last year was my first year teaching the engineering specialty rather than being in a general classroom. I began the year with six Mindstorms sets. In order to allow as many students access as possible. I prebuilt the six robots, and students were only able to use them for programming. Because my class sizes range from 20 to 32 students depending on the grade level, with the older grades having larger class sizes, I had to develop creative ways to use the robots so that group sizes weren’t five or more.
As an engineering specialty, I am lucky to have additional materials for teaching engineering through hands-on methods that were already in the lab when I started. Having just left the general classroom as a 3rd grade teacher, I was familiar with the use of centers for classroom instruction. Therefore, I used a center type method to integrate the robots into the instruction. I would split the 3rd through 5th grade classes that used the Mindstorms. One half of the class would be given an assignment using our other lab materials while the other half were able to be split into much smaller groups, two and three, to program the Mindstorms. This can and was a challenge for the instructor to monitor and assist all the students as needed, but it was well worth the opportunity provided to the students.
Integrating robotics into the curriculum doesn’t require a classroom set. Use what you have to get started.
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