#90 – The Wonder of STEM and Robotics in the Elementary Classroom

Unpacking Education May 4, 2022 40 min

Technology and computer science are becoming foundational components of our modern world. We see them in nearly every aspect of our lives: shopping, communication, school, work, banking, and even applying for a job. Since tech is so important, we need to make sure that our students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to be innovators in this field. Computers, technology, and coding are no longer “extras.” They are essentials.

In this episode, we are joined by Bryan Miller, Senior Director of Global Strategic Outreach at Wonder Workshop. Together, we discuss how the Wonder Workshop robots—Dash, Dot, and Cue—can be used to both introduce students to computer science and coding and also stretch them into developing social and emotional learning (SEL) and critical thinking skills to solve real-world problems.

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

If you want to create and be a visionary, you’re probably going to be working with technology in some way.

Steph Curry, three-time NBA Champion


The following resources are available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:

Integrating Computer Science and Programming into Your Classroom

While computer science impacts us in countless ways, many teachers lack background in this area or feel unsure how to integrate it into their classroom. Fortunately, companies like Wonder Workshop have developed fun and engaging products to get students interested in robotics and coding, and they have paired their products with standards-aligned content and practical learning activities to make it easier for teachers to begin integrating it into their classrooms. These resources are accessible entry points for teachers who are less confident getting started.

During our conversation, we describe what computer science and coding can look like in your classroom. We also explore ways for you to get started. Part of this includes allowing yourself the grace to not be the expert right away. It’s okay to be a lead learner in your classroom and empower students to help you discover the wonders of robots and computer coding. Let them unbox a robot and figure out how to use it. Products like the robots from Wonder Workshop can make computer science fun, engaging, and empowering. Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

  • Wonder Workshop: Wonder Workshop is the creator of classroom robots: Dash, Dot, and Cue. These robots can be found in over 25,000 U.S. classrooms and help students learn the early concepts and skills of computer coding. Dash and Dot use block coding and were created for grades K–5, while Cue uses JavaScript computer language and is designed for middle school students.
  • Advice for Teachers New to Coding: You don’t need to be an expert to get started. Take a chance, try it, don’t be afraid, and give your students an opportunity to shine. You can let them take the lead while you guide them and learn alongside them. Because the robots feel like “toys,” they get students excited and motivated, and these robots are an effective gateway into the concepts and skills of computer coding.
  • Advice for More Experienced Coding Teachers: Ask how you can get your students to think differently. One way to do this is to have them use coding and robotics to solve real-world problems. Think, also, about ways to integrate computer science and coding into cross-curricular content. For instance, have students program robots to act out a story.
  • Finding the Fit for Your Classroom and Curriculum: For your convenience, Wonder Workshop activities are aligned to multiple educational standards, including Code.org computer science standards, Common Core standards, and even specialized standards from states like Florida and Texas. Wonder Workshop’s cross-curricular lesson library is connected to major subjects like math, science, ELA, and social studies.
  • A Vehicle for SEL: When students work with robots, they naturally practice skills fundamental to social and emotional learning (SEL). Students collaborate, communicate, practice resilience, and frequently fail forward. Currently, Georgia State University is writing an SEL curriculum in partnership with Wonder Workshop. This curriculum is scheduled to be released at an upcoming STEAM summit and will highlight how SEL and computer science work together.
  • Coding Without a Robot: By using Dashs Neighborhood, classrooms can engage in virtual robotic coding without the physical robot.
  • Competitions: Wonder Workshop sponsors annual robotics competitions where students are asked to solve real-world problems using coding and robots. Wonder Workshop embraces gender equality and is proud that 48% of participants, and the majority of competition champions, have been girls. There are three age groups: 6–8, 9–12, and 13+.

Guiding Questions

If you are listening to the podcast with your teaching team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:

  • Where do you see evidence of computer science and robotics in your daily life?
  • What do you know about Wonder Workshop and their robots: Dash, Dot, and Cue?
  • What is your current experience level with computer coding and robotics, and how comfortable are you integrating these subjects into your classroom?
  • How might robotics and coding be best integrated into your content specialty?
  • How might robotics and computer coding support social and emotional learning?
  • What questions do you have about robotics and coding, and how might you find the answers to your questions?