Today's March is for Making inspiration(30 post in 30 days) comes from guest blogger, Erica Bertucci of St. Albans City School. Erica will be offering a student leadership camp as part of Create Make Learn Summer Institute. If you would to grow your students leadership skills to support making in your school, check out the new student leadership strand at Create Make Learn. Your students will come back with new making skills as well as new leadership skills to support making in your school.
Students Leading a Day of Code at St. Albans City School
A Guest Blog Post from Erica Bertucci, St. Albans City School
Student Leaders who planned and ran our Day of Code
As I sit to write this entry, I realize that I never really sat and fully reflected on the experience of facilitating a group of sixteen 7th and 8th graders to plan a jam packed Day of Code for our whole school (Grades PreK-8).
We started the class by just having the students learn some of our programming tools. First, students were invited to make their scratch program come alive by using a Makey Makey. This was a great intro project as students could find success whether they had used scratch for years or had never seen it before. After Makey Makey, students were challenged to learn about one of our robots and then teach the class.
For the Day of Code planning, students were divided up into committees based on their interests and went to work. Grace and I did set timelines and give expectations but then had to sit back and let the students work. We struggled at times as we both really enjoy planning and running this event and we had to remind ourselves to take a backseat on the planning and really work on the support and scaffolding for each student and not being attached to what activities they planned as long as they were appropriate.
- Recruiting speakers and doing the publicity
- Creating the website
- Creating activities for PreK and K classes
- Creating activities for 1-3 Classes
- Creating activities for 4-6 Classes
- Creating activities for 7-8 Classes
On Day of Code, we had Minecraft, UVM robotics presenters, creating stickers with code, a binary code workshop, a coding scavenger hunt, a way back machine (with items on the cutting edge of technology 20, 30 or even 50 years ago), an emulator station where you could play computer games from 30 years ago, along with unplugged and online activities happening in every classroom.
Here are a few highlights of other activities:
Kindergarten Students “programming” their robot (their courageous
teacher who they dressed up) to move through a maze.
- All Kindergarten classes got to program a “robot” (ie. a 7th or 8th grader) to go through a maze created with Blueblocks. At the end of this, the students all programmed their teacher to make it through the maze. This activity was facilitated by our PreK/K committee in partnership with the 7-8 Committee. These students had to recruit “robots” and get permission from their teachers to have the robots miss class. They also had to train the robots and instruct the kindergarten students on what they were expected to do. While I could go on for paragraphs describing all the amazing interactions and learning I got to witness, I’ll sum it up with two examples:
1. One of the 8th grade robots saying how cool it was that the kindergarteners often didn’t know their left and right and would often start off just saying “go” or “turn” and that after some coaching from their robot they would start using left and right and giving a direction with a certain number of steps.
2. The ⅞ grade robots started switching roles with their kindergarten partner if there was time. At first I was weary as this wasn’t the plan, but of course then I saw how powerful it was for the ⅞ student to figure out the exact commands and that their learning helped them be a better robot the next time.
- All second grade classes got a
visit from 2 8th grade students who facilitated a beebot introduction and
a “create your own robot” activity that the 8th graders planned and
gathered the resources for.
The leader of this activity had this to say: “I now have more
respect for the teachers at school, they do so much. I learned a lot
stepping into their shoes and working with students. It was nice to
explain things that were simple to me, but were mesmerizing for the
students. I loved seeing their creativity while they worked on their
- Some 3rd grade students had the
opportunity to create a Soroban. This workshop was led by an outside
presenter, John Rouleau, who provided all the materials. He had 7th
and 8th grade student helpers who quickly learned how to use a soroban and
could then be seen teaching the 3rd grade. How cool was it to see
the 3rd graders teaching their teachers and some of the other 7th and 8th
- All 6th grade classes got to participate on a Makey Makey workshop led by the 4-6 committee. The student leaders taught how a Makey Makey works and then created tutorials for the students to write a program in scratch.
Students using Scratch to write code for their Makey Makey
Students demonstrating how a
Makey Makey works using an Energy Stick
Takeaways for myself as an educator:
- WOW this was much more challenging
than planning the event myself and just telling people what to do.
- Having the whole tech team on
board was key. Our librarian, tech administrator and tech assistant
all helped out on the day and provided the Way-Back machine, the emulator
and the binary code workshop. They also helped support ⅞ leaders who
were working at the emulator station and the Way-Back machine.
- What could be better real life learning than planning an event for the whole school! Students acquired so many skills including:
- Communication within the group and also with teachers, community members, students and presenters
- Collaboration with peers and figuring out how to efficiently get the job done while also appreciating what strengths each person brings to the group
- Problem Solving- what happens if our activities aren’t ready? What do I do when the schedule was wrong and 2 classes are expecting me at the same time? What do I do when the Kindergarten class isn’t listening?
- Complex thinking- How do I figure out if an activity is appropriate for a certain grade? How do I give instructions that are clear and concise for an activity?
- Being Flexible!
- Students got to find out what their role would be within the group and where they would “Shine”. We had a diverse group of learners- some who excelled in the classroom and had been given multiple opportunities to lead, some who struggled in the classroom and acted out or chose not to participate. Teachers (myself included) got to see these students in a different light:
- The student who struggled to stay focused and not act on impulse took the lead at the Way-Back Machine and helped facilitate a disagreement between a group of kindergarteners (I looked on ready to step in, but this student beat me to it.)
- A student who struggles academically really enjoyed testing out the binary code bracelet instructions and creating an example for others to see. This student also took on the role of photographer and had a schedule to make sure he got pictures of all the events. He didn’t miss anything!
- Two students created and facilitated a coding scavenger hunt for their peers and had fifteen 7th and 8th graders engaged and excited for this activity.
- Students going into their former classrooms to lead activities and give back to their former teachers.
- Two students being asked to help with the makey makey activity at the last minute and jumping right in to support the student leading this activity.
- A student who had never used Makey Makey or scratch, took the lead on creating a workshop for 6th grade students.
- While the website group learned how to work with each other and were very excited at their design and making sure to have a page to thank all the students who planned the day, they didn’t get all the content on the site in time. This was very frustrating for me at first as I was busy and focused on getting things done. When I did have a chance to sit back and reflect I realized:
- I would never have focused on how it looked and they worked together to figure out how to add a cool design. They didn’t know each other well and they bonded over this. It was important to them.
- The parts they finished were the parts that made this site unique and different than our old day of code site.
- And I ask myself: Would I have thought to publicly recognize each student by giving them a spot in the menu and then listing what each student did?
- It was really fun working with these students and Grace and I enjoyed saying thank you to them by making them T-shirts using our vinyl cutter and heat press. The students were so proud to wear the T-shirts and very excited to keep them (guess they get to as we did put their name on them!).