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Teacher Grants Spotlight: Nurturing Communication Skills with STEM and Storytelling

We are a STEM school and our students are getting an early start into coding. Now that they have seen what the robots can do, they are excited to continue and extend this project for next year.Janice Sandberg | Teacher, Washington Elementary STEM Magnet

by Brianna Chu

Technology can be used for many different purposes, not just scientific ones. Washington Elementary STEM Magnet third grade teacher, Janice Sandberg, thought it would be great for her third grade class to collaborate with the kindergarten class to create their own stories by coding using KIBO. KIBO allows young children to code by placing wooden blocks in a sequence and then scanning that created sequence to code the robot. Using wooden blocks, a familiar medium, helps make coding less daunting and more intuitive for children of younger ages. KIBO was the ideal technology to use, since Ms. Sandberg wanted to cultivate a coding playground atmosphere that nurtured all the students’ problem-solving and storytelling skills.

Ms. Sandberg first introduced the KIBO robots to the kindergarteners during a STEM night at the school, providing a mini-demonstration before letting the students interact freely with it themselves. She found that they all easily grasped the technique with which to code the robot. Her third graders quickly took to KIBO as well, since they had previous experience coding with the online platform Scratch Jr. in class.

Finally, it was time to pair the third graders up with kindergarteners, and let their imaginations run wild! The pairs created stories together initially using the Scratch Jr. platform, then transferred the story to the KIBO robots. Now that Ms. Sandberg and the kindergarten teachers have seen their classes work together, they are excited to continue and expand this project in the future.

The Pasadena Educational Foundation’s Teacher Grants help inspirational teachers throughout Pasadena Unified take their creative projects from idea to reality by providing resources to enhance the classroom experience for their students. The grants, provided directly to the teachers, benefit thousands of students in Altadena, Pasadena, and Sierra Madre.

For our 2018-19 grants we were proud to provide more than $200,000 for 125 grants to 190 educators including 14 school-wide grants. PEF Teacher Grants are made possible with generous support from the College Football Playoff Foundation, Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, FEDCO Charitable Foundation, California Community Foundation, and individual community donors. Find out more here: http://pased.org/teachers.