As a pioneer school for the new curriculum, we work hard to develop themes and projects that aim to meet the new curriculum standards. This is achieved by incorporating activities that encompass a number of Areas of Learning and Experience (AOLEs) and allows children to apply Literacy, Numeracy and Digital skills through this approach.
After being approached by Mat Pullen, a lecturer at the University of South Wales (USW), to take part in a Summer Project led by a number of second year students, we couldn’t turn down the opportunity! We value the relationship with the USW and the Initial Teacher Training course they run. What a great opportunity for the students to develop and deliver a project over three weeks, in a pioneer school that supports the ethos of the new curriculum.
Three Digital Champions Miss Parcell, Mr Milner and Miss Guy developed a project ‘Sphero to the Rescue’ that linked with our Summer Term theme of ‘All Aboard’, particularly focusing on the work of the RNLI. Over the next three weeks we were going to design, create and program our own life saving devices. Coding is very much an important aspect of the Data and Computational Thinking strand of the Digital Competence Framework (DCF) which focuses on developing digital skills which can be applied to a wide range of subjects and scenarios. Here is a link to find out more information about the DCF and Data and Computational Thinking.
After the introductions, we were asked what we already knew about the RNLI, if we had any questions and what we would like to learn. We recorded our ideas collaboratively using an iPad app called Popplet. We were thoroughly engaged and couldn’t wait to tell our ‘special visitors’ what we already knew about the RNLI. A particular favourite fact that many of us could recall was that a ‘Shannon’ boat type cost £2.1m. We were then challenged to use and develop our coding language by coding our partner around an obstacle using algorithms (a precise set of sequenced instructions).
We were then introduced to the Spheros …. an ‘oooh-ahhh’ moment for us all as we were immediately engaged and eager to try it out ourselves. To begin with we had opportunities to ‘drive’ the Sphero (a spherical, programmable robot toy) around obstacles and eventually have a race against each other. Always great to incorporate a bit of healthy competition! Our next session with our ‘special visitors’ really put our coding skills to the test. This time we had to work in our groups to code the Sphero to draw different 2D shapes. We were good at this!
So on to the next challenge….We were given a 50p budget to buy a variety of equipment to use in our own, specially designed obstacle course. Once we had set up our obstacle course, we were ready to go. However, this time we had to input our set of instructions (algorithms) for the Sphero to follow in order to navigate around the obstacles we had set up. This took a lot of resilience and we often had to call upon the skills of our Super Learning Powers; Professor Resilience, Reciprocity Ranger and Doctor Resourceful. An enjoyable, but challenging afternoon that was well worth the overwhelming joy when our group finally succeeded!
Now it was time to get down to business and put on our enterprising, creative contributors hat. As a class we discussed the properties and features that need to be included on our boats in order to inform our designs. Pencils at the ready, time to design and label our own life saving device.
After individually designing our device we then discussed in our groups the different features and why we had included them. As a result, we then produced a final design including key elements that encompassed each of our ideas. To further develop our idea we transferred our design using the digital application ‘Paper’.
Now time for the best bit….LEGO! Learning, collaborating and constructing a life saving device for a purpose using LEGO, pretty sure all our Christmases came at once.
We used our designs to construct our first attempt, ensuring the Sphero would fit into our designs. Then we went outside and tested our devices by manually driving our devices in the paddling pool. Lots of us had to make adjustments to our first attempts but that was the whole idea, understanding how and why certain changes needed to be made. This gave us to the opportunity to talk critically with our group members to explain what went well, what we thought did not go so well and finally what adjustments we needed to make to make it more successful.
Time to transform into rescue specialists. Three weeks of hard work, determination, creativity and problem solving (just to name a few) were finally put to the test. Using our final devices and our coding skills from our previous sessions we needed to code the Sphero to move from the start, rescue the person and then return to the start. This definitely put our problem solving skills to the test. Would you believe it, all our devices successfully rescued the person in need. What a very proud moment!
To conclude our three weeks of work, again we collaborated to create a recount of the activities. Although, no pens or paper were required for this task. Our recount was completed using an iPad video app called ‘Clips’. We combined a variety of images and videos of our group’s work, together with interesting title filters, stickers and not to mention the uncontrollable body moving music which we then shared and evaluated with our peers.
That’s it! Our very successful three week project complete. Work which we didn’t want to end. We cannot thank our ‘special visitors’ enough, for allowing us to take part in a project which we were completely engaged with from start to finish. We didn’t even realise we were applying so many of our skills at once. Definitely something we’ll never forget and something which hopefully next year’s Year four can complete during our ‘All Aboard’ theme. We are ambitious, capable learners who are enterprising creative contributors!