Willow Brook teacher introduces programming via Spheros robots
Willow Brook teacher introduces programming via Spheros robots
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Coding isn’t just a science and math skill, it can be used across the curriculum, and third grade teacher Emily Forsythe is showing this to students at Willow Brook Elementary School. Forsythe bought a collection of Spheros, a spherical robot that can be programmed and controlled by a tablet to roll around, change colors and run programs. She is introducing programming to her students because companies are looking for employees that have skills related to coding, critical and creative thinking and effective communication, and coding teaches students all of these.

In a recent geometry unit, students chose a polygon, determined the attributes of its shape and then coded the Sphero to trace the polygon’s shape. Then the students turned the controls over to another student, who was challenged with running the code to trace the shape, as well as with naming and describing the attributes of their partner’s polygon.

“I like that you can code the Spheros, but it is hard to find the right blocks to make it do what you want it to the first time,” third grader Sophia Goldsmith said. “It’s a good challenge for me. It’s also fun to just drive the Sphero.”

Forsythe plans to make the Spheros available to the whole building and will use a scheduling program so classes can check them out throughout the year. She secured 14 Spheros with funding from a Pattonville Education Foundation (PEF) grant, so there will be one Sphero for every two students in class. She even converted some old tool boxes into charging/carrying cases so the Spheros can travel around the building.

“Students have been ecstatic about the Spheros as they are highly engaged when we are working on them,” Forsythe said. “I have also noticed that students are more resilient when they are coding and it is not working the way they want it to, compared to when they are struggling with their other classwork.”

When working with the Spheros, students are learning three different types of coding and how to think critically to complete a variety of tasks, while also mastering how to persevere when they do not succeed and are feeling frustrated. Next year, Forsythe hopes to embed the Spheros within lessons and activities to increase student engagement and have coding be more intertwined into lessons. She is still learning everything that can be done with them, but is looking at using them outside of math and science lessons. For example, the Spheros can be tied in to reading and writing because they can be coded to talk, allowing students to retell stories they read or say things they wrote.

Shown above and below, students program Spheros in Emily Forsythe's third grade class at Willow Brook Elementary School.


Pattonville School District

11097 St. Charles Rock Road
St. Ann, MO 63074
(314) 213-8500

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