Monday 4th July was the day I had been waiting for since February. Apple Distinguished Educator, Jason Milner a Year 4 teacher from Sydney, visited my school to work with me on a MakerSpace project we had been planning for months.
What is a MakerSpace?
I was particularly interested in this concept of MakerSpaces because of the strong links to Foundation Stage style practice. It’s a place in your school or setting where children use open-ended resources or work on projects related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic skills. Children work on their own projects or respond to challenges set. I wanted to see how best practices and resources from Foundation can be extended to support learning in computing and programming skills. Jason also wanted to gain experience using our Dash robots with Foundation Stage children.
Dash robots are programmed on a free app from Make Wonder called Path. In free play mode the children draw a path for Dash to follow with their finger. On that path they select and sequence different actions for Dash to complete. We gave the children a to-do list of missions that their Dash had to complete on their Mars expedition. This supports the coding curriculum as the children are sequencing actions. They need to complete the missions in the correct order. Their Mars Rovers also needed to be durable and complete the task without breaking down!
What did the MakerSpace look like?
We used my construction, creative and malleable area. We combined these spaces and opened up a much larger area with many more resources available to the children. The children had access to fabrics, foils and art materials as well as Lego and construction kits. All of this provided as free choice within in an open space where their robots could roam for testing.
What challenge did we set?
My class have had a genuine interest in space exploration this year having followed the Principia Mission with Major Tim Peake. This was fuelled by his tweets with us and getting to sing in space with Tim! With the news of the Mars Rover losing contact with ground control, we set my class a challenge to help design a rover robot of their own. This was a real context for learning, linked to a real life challenge and the challenged wrapped around their interests as well as my curriculum.
Children worked in self chosen groups to turn their Dash robot in to a Mars Rover. They used Make Wonder’s Path app on the iPad to program their Mars Rover to complete a series of tasks. Jason also helped the children to film their Mars Rover travelling over the surface of Mars using a green screen.
Here are some examples of the Mars Rovers that the children designed in their teams. You can even see some of the green screen films the children made with Jason. If you haven’t used Green Screen by DoInk before, take a look at it on the App Store here.
Here’s the children using our green screen (which is a turquoise bed sheet and our turquoise floor!)
Impact on learning and best practise.
This project was all about wrapping code around the curriculum. It is about applying skills from different areas of learning and building code in to a cross-curricular topic or child-led interest. Applying code to a real-world challenge opens up the possibility to make links to other areas of learning and using robots like Dash allows for more fluid links across the curriculum.
Teaching with Jason was such a buzz! To work with another teacher who has the same interests and passions as me was incredible. We were bouncing ideas off of one another and building on each other’s ideas right in the lesson. There was a great energy in the classroom children’s imaginations were ignited by our shared ideas. Jason introduced some children to augmented reality towards the end of the session, letting them view their videos from trigger images of Mars. We worked so well together and are both looking forward to making greater links between our schools. Thank You Jason for such a memorable day at school, the kids will never forget it either!