понеділок, 27 листопада 2017 р.

Lesson with kids: Robot BB-8. Just believe it and program


Do you believe? Do you think it is good to believe? At what age do you tell your kids that there is no Santa Claus?
I have consider myself an adult for the last several years. In my understanding a grown-up is a person who can be responsible for others and who attempts to lead a win-win strategy with everyone. I watch myself and I watch others’ behavior, and I compare them to find out the best ways and viewpoints on the life questions.
Last time I decided to try to teach programming to children not just in an interesting and easy way, but also to make a fairy tale in which kids would be the main actors and coding would be the most emotional and so memorable part.


The pirate fairy tale

Once upon a time in a far-far-away galaxy there was an enchantress. She saw a group of kids through her magic ball. They were amicable nice children, interested in programming, so she decided to give them a robot who would be their friend and helper. She also decided to join the kids for the time while they learned how it works.

The story has begun, kids got into it and started treating me as the enchantress, play with BB-8 and ask about its features. The costume helped. When everyone had a chance to touch the robot and feel how it works, we continued.

Kids had treasure: tangerines and candies. The fairy night was coming and so they hid it. In order not to forget where the treasure was, they wrote a message on BB-8, with the location of the treasure. After, went to sleep.

It’s nice to have the breaks after activity, even if it’s interesting, it helps to organise the little ones, they remind constantly moving electrons when super active. Even to sit for a moment and feign calmness helps a lot.

While everyone was sleeping, the pirate, who was hiding and watched the kids’ play, stole the robot as the source of the information where the treasure was. When everyone got up, they found BB-8 was missing. The pirate showed up and said that now he was the owner of not just the robot, but also of the treats. And, if the kids want to get it back, they were to do what the pirate wanted and maybe come up with interesting ideas of how to make him happy.

At this moment the kids were emotional. They had the BB-8 (kindly Bibik), which wasn't theirs any more. They had the treasure but then they lost it. Such a moment is great to learn to program the robot because the memories will stay for long time. Another thing to do is to teach the kids how to behave in the situation. The best would be to calm the offender down and relax him. For example, it was possible to deal and get what they wanted.
Depending on the programming level of kids, the tasks differ. Lower, I list several for the beginners.

As soon as the kids agreed to appease the pirate, he started giving them the tasks.
  1. I had a dog in the childhood who I loved a lot. I want you to make the robot come to me, bark and run away.
  2. Now I want BB-8 to walk a circle around me when he comes.
  3. I want him to make it many times and sometimes meow instead of barking, I like cats too.
  4. And finally I’d like to remember the moon from my childhood. In the cave where I lived, it seemed to be green and blue. I’d like to look at the robot and feel what I felt back then.  
It’s good to tease kids that they won’t make it, they gained more energy to achieve the tasks. In all cases there was an enchantress to help. Also, the pirate had to encourage the kids when they implemented what he wanted. They love the adoration.


All in all, while watching the moon, pirate remembered how his parents loved him and how happy he was in his youth, and fell asleep. Kids realised this was the time to take action: take BB-8, with the treasures and run away. Then, with teacher, everybody thought again if they behaved nicely, came back, left several candies to the pirate and ran away for real.

The fairy tale finished happily by discussing all what has happened, eating the treasures and drawing funny faces on the tangerines.  

The game was great and kids loved it. I tested it with 3 groups and for sure things didn't always go as planned.
This kind of game works well with the children of 8-10 years. They get so involved and they might start beating the pirate for taking the robot away. During one lesson, the pirate appeared while kids were not feigning sleep, and so kids have put him into an imaginary jail. The situation and the scenario were rescued by the tennis table where kids were sent for a break. Older ones (10-12 years) started discussing the law system and what should happen to the pirate after he stole the robot. They also were concerned if they should follow the pirate’s requests to program the robot, because it wasn't their only option. In the very end they made the robot act like the very obedient dog, and then asked the pirate for a photo session with them.

Always be ready to be flexible and brainstorm depending on the situation.

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