The commonly known “Little School on the Hill” has jetted into the millennium thanks in part to the funding of a $25,000 grant received earlier this school year via the Monsanto Fund.
Last week the student body of Knights Ferry School and the staff were treated to two days of learning and ‘playing’ in the area of robotics. Jose Marquez, STEM Coordinator for Stanislaus County Office of Education, visited the campus to aid with the lessons and learning.
“The materials were purchased by Knights Ferry School,” school Superintendent-Principal, Dr. Janet Skulina (Dr. J) said. “The grant also funded the specialist from the district to come visit and teach the students.”
Dr. J noted the generous amount of the grant offered the school the opportunity to purchase close to 80 robot kits of varying levels, a number that provides one for every two students on the campus.
“We have enough for every class, as a result of the grant,” she said.
The robots/robotic kits range from building and programming, for the higher grade levels, to basic coding for the younger grades.
“The robotics, it’s not just about building a Lego and playing with it,” Dr. J stated. “They’re using the programming language. It’s computer application. It’s science, it’s geometry for the little guys. They really like it. It’s amazingly engaging.”
While the idea of a five-year-old, who may have yet to learn to read, programming/coding a robot may seem a stretch, but according to Marquez that’s hardly the case.
“The coding is so intuitive,” he said. “A lot of the coding is visual. They’re able to connect in terms of pattern. They’re naturals in the way of technology.”
Picking patterns and making robots go as they may however, was not the point of the lesson or exercise. The students are challenged by way of the pattern the robot travels, the construction when building or both.
“They build a robot and then they have to program it,” Dr. J said. “Then they have to problem solve both their engineering of the robot and their programming and coding.”
Dr. J shared the ability to purchase the kits and as result the learning that will continue to happen thanks to the grant is essentially priceless. She noted the students are now presented with a fun and engaging way of learning certain things which may seem mundane in other areas of learning.
“How are we applying science in a fun way,” she said of the addition to the STEM curriculum, “The fun piece of it and the critical thinking piece of it.”
“Our world is changing,” Marquez said. “Understanding how robotics works in the way of programming is valuable. Hopefully it will even push them toward a career choice, especially with what’s right in our own backyard.”