If you walk into a kindergarten class on a Monday morning, you might not be surprised to see children sitting on the floor and playing with blocks. But these are no ordinary blocks; our students are actually learning the basics of coding through KIBO Robots, an innovative STEAM educational tool new at Hausner this year. We are grateful to have received a 50% matching grant from the David Lear Sulman Computing, Science, and Engineering Fund, allowing us to purchase 20 robotics units. These robots teach students about coding and computational thinking in a screen-free and fun format. KIBO robots were developed at Tufts University by Marina Bers, an alumna of the MIT Media Lab. The grant we received connects Jewish Day Schools with the Limudei Code-Esh learning program that guides students through storytelling activities connected to Jewish holidays. Each curriculum encourages students to express their thoughts, ideas, and learning through coding activities that explore each holiday’s concepts and rituals.
Currently, Marla Hochman in the Makerspace is leading children through the KIBO curriculum, and the students are truly enjoying it. The kids begin by learning about stories and sequencing, understanding the importance of a beginning, middle, and end in order for a story to make sense. They start to understand that coding is a language, like Hebrew or Spanish, but it’s the language of computers. This just skims the surface of the curriculum so far, and the students will learn about conditions and loops as they continue learning with these robots.
The KIBO story blocks contain instructions, like whether to turn left or right, shake, beep, or sing. By stringing these story blocks together and then scanning the barcodes on these blocks in order to “program” the robot, the students are able to make the robot function how they want. When a robot does not perform as expected, the students then need to troubleshoot and figure out what went wrong and how to make a change so the robot behaves as desired. Marla says that there were “squeals of delight” when the students programmed and tested the robots for the first time. Students from all grades are excited to continue working with the robots this year, giving them the ability to make their stories come to life.
Smita Kolhatkar, Hausner’s Director of Lower School, Technology & Innovation, was excited by the opportunity to bring these innovative tools to Hausner this year. Smita explained that “Hausner has various computer science tools that we use, but I think robots are better tools to use than software coding on a computer for a young age. They’re screen-free, involve communication, collaboration, and they integrate with what’s going on in the classroom, like reading and writing.” The students also work on social-emotional skills in the process of figuring out how to make the robots work, but it’s done in a fun way.
This year, Hausner has been able to ensure each grade level gets to spend time in the Makerspace once per week. It is also open during lunchtime, allowing students to get their hands on the robots even more frequently. The kids absolutely love these robots, and the fact that the robots listen to the commands they are given makes them so much better.
Thank you to our wonderful families for supporting the Hausner Fund this year and enabling our school to implement innovative new programs like the KIBO Robots, and helping us offer time in the Makerspace to all classes. Your gift ensures that Hausner is able to continue offering innovative educational tools to all of our students, allowing them to learn and grow in a fun and safe environment. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hausnerschool.org/support-us.