After a reading of “Peg + Cat: The Pizza Problem,” 3rd graders at Northside Elementary broke into teams of two and three, each equipped with a Sphero Indi robot car.
The book discusses halves and wholes of pizza–“It’s all in how you slice it!”–and the students were tasked with figuring out how to get their vehicle to navigate a delivery route using its onboard color sensors and color tiles.
“The idea was for the students to problem solve in a low-stakes setting that didn't feel like they were practicing fractions, which often seem scary to some students,” explained their teacher, Christine Rogers. “Because the students were able to figure out what the colors meant and how to make patterns on their own, they felt much more accomplished, proud, and motivated to learn more than if I were to just give them a key for each color.”
The class was part of a three-week summer learning program for selected incoming elementary students (kindergarten through 5th grade) coordinated by Sarah Boone, Administrative Coach for Academics & Instruction. Geneseo’s three elementary principals–Brian Hofer, Philip Moe and Joe Mowen–take turns serving as the administrative person in charge, while Jessica Jansen, the district’s lead nurse, is also on hand.
While readiness skills in English language arts and mathematics are the main areas of focus, building connections, social and emotional learning, confidence and key character development are also prioritized.
“It’s a chance for students to get back in the classroom and be around other students before the beginning of the school year,” explained Philip Moe, principal at Millikin. “Classes are smaller–7 to 10 students rather than 20-24–and the emphasis is on learning, but we keep it light. The students are selected and invited through a referral process from our teachers.”
The summer learning program includes STEM-related activities as a way to build connections between math and literacy to science, technology and engineering practices. That’s where Ms. Rogers, who normally teaches music at Millikin, comes in.
“I've loved getting to see my students and meet new students,” she said. “I've really enjoyed getting to work with them outside of my normal area and the STEM enrichment has been so much fun. It's fascinating to watch how the students work with each other to explore the technology while still working toward a goal.”
Ms. Rogers said her 4th and 5th grade students are working with Sphero BOLT coding robots to practice basic programming.
“They started the first week by just driving the robots, which was similar to using a joystick for video or computer games,” she explained. “The second week, we will dive into creating a series of commands to make the robots go from one point to another just by pressing ‘start.’ Just as the younger students were using trial-and-error with the color tiles, the older students will be problem solving with the different commands, which vary in time length, speed and direction.”
With the first day of the regular school year on August 16, the summer sessions give students and staff a chance to ease back into school-mode without completely disrupting their summer routines.
“It’s a nice way for everyone to get a jumpstart on being back in school, walk down the hallway together, and congregate on the playground,” said Mr. Moe. “It’s more of a relaxed setting, and that makes it an enjoyable program for both our students and staff.”