Learning Through Play With Lego Mindstorms

In a recent article we released in Issue #7, we talked about the advantages of extracurricular activities like Technology Camps on student learning; how it helps students develop to become well rounded young adults and the real world skills students acquire in camps such as Game Development.

Looking for Technology Camps for kids younger than 8 can be a challenge. Many organizations are trying to provide options for this age group because they see it as a business opportunity. However, there are a number of child developmental considerations when choosing programmes for younger children that should be taken into account. For example, children as young as 5 for will likely have difficulties in using a mouse, typing, remembering where the letters on the keyboards are, understanding the syntax of coding languages and let’s not forget the much shorter attention spans.

For young kids, we would recommend keeping the phrase “Learning through playing” front of mind. It has been long understood, through practical experience as well as academic work by e.g. Lev Vygotsky and Maria Montessori, that learning through play is a critical element for young children to develop key skills in language, emotion, creativity and social interaction, it pulls together the logical and creative areas of the brain.

In practical terms, we have found that introducing Technology with Lego Mindstorms to young kids is more effective than making them code early on. Even in children as young as 6 years old, we have found Robotics with Lego effective to expose them to both the principles and ideas of coding, like logic, and elements of engineering through robotics. The small parts in Lego Mindstorms challenge younger students developing motor skills and coordination.

Here’s some of the key benefits of Lego Mindstorms and what kids learn and build in a Lego Mindstorms Camp:

1.) Boosts empathy and awareness
In our camps, we ensure to kickstart it with a few intriguing questions: “What type of problems do you face in daily life?” “Are there more people who are facing the same problem?” and “What can we do to solve it?”. Prompting these questions helps young learners begin to consider their environment. This helps them think about the problems they would like robots to solve, these can be as simple as “retrieving an item across the room without having to leave a seat”.

2.) Nurtures Imagination and Creativity
When entering the brainstorming process you’ll get a room full of energy and 100 possible answers, this is the time to introduce feasibility. For example, If you need to retrieve an item from across the room, “what will you need?” You will likely need something with wheels on it to move and arms to pick it up. “Do you have these resources available?”.

3.) Introduces engineering
Lego Mindstorms encourages kids to build with more variety like gears and levers. It promotes engineering where students can take the various plastic pieces to construct robots, buggies, or devices, while ensuring they can physically “move” or “operate” together to successfully and repeatedly perform a task e.g. making sure none of the pieces fall when the robot moves from a spot to another. Some people opine that the best way to stimulate the maximum creativity in robotics is to first take away the option of using the wheels!

4.) Emphasizes teamwork
Building a robot is not easy for kids to finish alone. We encourage them to go in groups to accomplish robots together, even to seek help where they can observe adults nearby or in their class. We help them identify their strengths, as well as start to think about ideas like delegation and having a team leader. One kid can be in charge of putting the pieces together, while another can be in charge of coding the robot.

5.) Teaches programming concepts
When building a robot, it is important kids are aware that computers don’t and can’t think for themselves. All technology is based on code, no matter how complex it is. Lego Mindstorms runs on a visual programming environment, which is intuitive for kids because they simply need to imagine what their robot will do, and drag-and-drop plain language blocks into correct sequences using logic. There are on screen technologies to do this like Scratch, however they lack the physical interaction and immersive multi-sensory experience that kids get in creating and using a robot.

6.) Camps are a great opportunity to Improve presentation and public speaking skills
At the end of any technology camp, we find it’s a critical capstone event for kids to be able to present their product. Presenting a solution is just as important as making a solution! It is the culminating part of reflection on their experience, reinforcement of their learning and demonstrating important soft skills and pride in their work.

Here we have used Robotics as our example. However, the benefits of play based learning will be quite consistent in any camp that is science or technology based. You can be certain that your children will have a lot of fun and be highly engaged to light the spark to learn even more in the future.

If you’re interested in bringing our Technology Camps or After School Programs into your schools, let us know here or request a demo.

about BSD
BSD Education is a global edtech startup focused on designing, developing, and delivering programs of learning for digital skills.
Our work empowers educators to use technology in the classroom by providing an online learning environment, customized curriculum, and professional development. The curricula we create can be implemented immediately with no prior experience and are mapped to US, IB, and British academic standards.

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