Middle School Students Explore Computer Science Concepts

Curricular Integration in Grade 5

It's been an exciting year in Grade 5 as we have piloted an integrated curriculum between Computer Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts, meaning that students have learned and applied technical skills to the material that they are studying in those classes. Though an integrated approach to learning, students retain more information through association, projects with real-world skills, and problem solving, while subject matter is brought to life.

With spring in full swing, our second integrated project of the year winds down. Using a Design Thinking approach, students ideated, designed, and 3D printed game pieces for the Ancient Mesopotamian Empires game that they have been playing in Social Studies, corresponding to their study of this civilization. Students worked in design teams to create 3D models that represent each of the following civilizations: the Babylonians, Hittites, Persians, and Phoenicians.

The Gratitude Project, which was integrated earlier this year in Language Arts, emphasized an empathy-based approach to systems thinking, and explored the benefits of gratitude as students reflected on the members of our community who help to keep it running and composed letters to them. Students learned how to use the idea mapping program Inspiration to create outlines, drafted in Google Docs, and then transferred their compositions to Microsoft Word, learning the basics of this application and Mac processes, as well as how to effectively navigate directory structure. Once compositions were finalized, students worked with design elements by adding images that they digitally adjusted, learning about principles of layout and design for print publishing.

We will be at our Celebration of Public Purpose on May 23 to discuss our Gratitude Project, look forward to having Grade 5 play the Empires Game with their 3D printed game pieces during an upcoming Flex Time, and plan to display the tri-folds which document the process behind this project at our upcoming Innovation Fair from May 22nd through the 24th.

6th Grade Takes on Programming Challenges

In our semester long 6th Grade Computer Science class, students have been engineering and programming robots using Lego Mindstorms EV3 components and software. After working in groups to build a driving robot that introduced students to fundamental vehicular structure, students took on programming challenges that enabled their robot to follow them around, follow a line, and explore the classroom. These programming challenges introduced students to four key concepts of coding which are vital in all of programming: loops, switches, conditionals, and variables. Once these coding basics have been explored, student groups chose their next project based on their interest and comfort level with building and programming. Some groups elected to build EV3 models such as a color sorting machine, puppy, elephant, or stair climber, while others took on more open ended designs like a drawing bot or candy dispensing machine. This classroom approach has introduced to the fundamentals of programming while providing students choice in their projects.