Robotics is Alive at WCDS!

*This post is part of a series on Annual Report updates. More in the series include A Reggio Emilia Classroom… and Mapping the World By Heart*

Way back in the day (in 2012), the fifth graders here at WCDS began implementing a new and exciting program. This was something that would challenge them to actively determine their level of learning, develop innovative solutions to unique, conceptual problems, and demonstrate those solutions to a public group of challengers. This was the first time LEGO Robotics had been implemented at Wheeling Country Day School, and over the next five years it would grow into a staple of the fifth grade curriculum.

Lego Robotics provides the students at Wheeling Country Day School the opportunity to engage in active learning. Students begin this project by breaking into teams as soon as the school year starts in late August. It then culminates with a team competition scheduled for late May, just before the students graduate. Throughout the project, teams of two or three are required to assemble and program a Lego robot to complete a series of difficult challenges. Each week they work on various aspects of the program and even meet with experts in the field (Looking at you, Mr. Burke!). The robotics program is unique because it allows students to work at a pace that is challenging to their individual group. Because Lego Robotics provides many open-ended, challenge-based problems, it allows students to continue progressing through levels of difficulty even after mastering a specific set of skills. The competition that occurs after a year of programming successes and setbacks may be the most valuable aspect of this project. The teams are given two minutes to complete as many challenges as possible. Due to the time constraint, teams do not have a moment to dwell on what went wrong. Instead, the team members often get to work communicating and fixing the problem right away.

This program has become so important to our oldest students that other grade level teachers began thinking of how they could sprinkle robotics into their own curriculum. This would not only provide an opportunity to experience the fun and unencumbered nature of these programmable ‘friends’, but also work practically with a modern set of devices to both reinforce more traditional lessons and develop a 21st century skill set. With that in mind, and thanks to a generous grant awarded by The Sprout Fund and Remake Learning Network, WCDS has implemented robotics into each classroom from JK4 to fifth grade, which of course crests with that public competition mentioned above. And while the direct interaction with robotics may fade over time, the influence that this experience provides is lasting and holds the potential to impact their academic achievement well beyond the fifth grade classroom.

Thanks to the awareness of the teacher the potential this kind of project provides.

Thanks to the generous donation from a WCDS family member for the opportunity.

Thanks to the environment of Think, Create, Communicate with which Wheeling Country Day School has become so associated.

And of course, thanks to the excitement of the children to embrace this difficult and novel challenge in those first few months, the Robotics program at Wheeling Country Day School was born and thrives today.

If you would like to contribute to a project such as this, please contact Luke or Julie in the Advancement Office (advancement@wcdsedu.com) or the classroom teacher associated.

Bleep, Bloop, (‘Thanks for listening!’)

Joe Jividen and Luke Hladek