Jamie Harbin is the STEAM Teacher at B.B. Comer Memorial Elementary School in Alabama.
After purchasing our Wonder Packs in May of last school year, I began using Dash and Dot with students this year. We currently have five of each Dash and Dot robots. Our school recently added a Pre-K class, so I started with them building their coding skills. We did the Clear a Path Dash Challenge, where they had to put various things on the floor and have Dash use the Bulldozer accessory to help clean the classroom. During the month of December, we read various books about snow and they created Dash's Snow Plow to help clear the streets for Santa's arrival. I try to tie a majority of my lessons to literature.
The primary instructional focus with STEAM at our school is computational thinking, engineering design, as well as the integration of all the subject areas. Since I’m the STEAM teacher, my job is to coach the teachers with the training I have received through professional development as we co-teach STEAM-inspired lessons together. As a result of visiting the STEAM Lab each month, our teachers receive job-embedded professional development. I"m trying to help them learn how to integrate coding and other STEM content into the current curriculum they’re teaching. Students in grades kindergarten through sixth come to me for three consecutive days during a week, once a month. Teachers stay two out of those three days.
I use Path and Go with both Pre-K and Kindergarten. At that age, I’m trying to introduce them to the basics of coding. With the Kindergarten students, I use the coding task cards and the Curriculum Guide. We start with the Dot challenges to get them accustomed to the basics. By the end of the year, we start using Blockly to program Dash through an obstacle course.
Because measurement skills are more challenging for younger students, I made a game mat with grids where every square was ten centimeters. I used chart paper the first time and then I transferred to a tarp or shower curtain type of material. The grid was 80 centimeters by 60 centimeters. With the mat, we were playing games with letter or number recognition. I also created similar games where students would have to program Dash to get to the appropriate letter or object on the mat.
I made those for Kindergarten, but I used them across all grade levels as an introduction to Dash. With fourth graders, I created a factors and multiples pumpkin patch game, where they had to select a numbered pumpkin and code Dash to go to the corresponding factors and multiples. With theirs, I made it more advanced and threw in some coding challenge cards. For example, they had to add in an animation or they had to make him say what the factors and multiples were. I modified it to make it more challenging for them.
The first Dash project I did with first grade this year was a fairy tale unit. The students had read lots of different fairy tales in their classroom and had to pick their favorite. Then, they designed the costumes and programmed Dash and Dot using Legos and accessories. Working as a team, they programmed the robots to retell the six stories. They used the Path app to begin with because they’d done several puzzles before and unlocked various features. We tried Path, but couldn’t do as much as they wanted to, so we switched to the Blockly app for their final project designs. Using chart paper they re-created the settings to the stories on the floor. They retold the stories using Dash and Dot as their characters.
Later in the year, first graders learned how to play Dashketball. My first graders really—well, all of the students do—but the first graders especially love the Dash robots. The teachers were wanting to do a lesson with measurement. For first grade, the major focus is non-standard measurement. I did purchase the Curriculum Guide, so I’m constantly going through the Wonder Workshop website to search for lesson ideas. I found one with Dash playing basketball, and I thought, “Well, I’m going to modify this to work, with non-standard measurement.” With the nonstandard modification, they would use a piece of paper and cut it down to the size of Dash and measure his distance. Next, they created basketball goals. We actually used the boxes that the robots came in. We used a ruler and went to a local dollar store that had basketball goals and created our own basketball court. They measured out the distance with the paper to begin with. We used the recording sheet that was provided in the online lesson plan. They had to determine how far away Dash was and how it affected the launching power. We started with non-standard measurement and then moved on to standard measurement. I gave them meter sticks and a sheet of chart paper. They measured off ten centimeter increments because they needed to be able to measure Dash's movements within the Blockly app. Then, they determined what section of our court would be worth three points and what section would be worth two points. Then, they played the game with each other and kept score. It sounded like a real-life basketball game in my classroom that day!
Our district has a Innovative Teaching and Learning STEAM Showcase every year, and the first grade students who attended this year decided to take that project with them to the showcase. They dressed the Dashes up in basketball costumes, they had a scoreboard app they used to keep score, and they basically trained everyone who visited their table how to use Blockly to program Dash to play basketball. That project won second place. They were very proud of their hard work.
In second grade, their major focus at the beginning of the year was retelling and story mapping, so we focused on a book together from their reading class, Little Red Hen. On chart paper, they made a big story map and drew a path for Dash to travel on to retell the different parts using Blockly. They programmed him to stop at certain points, like when he got to the first setting. He would tell the story of what happens, the big events, and then go on to the next part until the end of the story.
Before the Sketch Kit existed, we made our own tools to allow Dash to draw. The students were focusing on geometry and we read The Greedy Triangle. They used Legos to help build a device for Dash to hold a marker or drawing utensil of their choice to create shape art. They used a large sheet of paper. They began with the Path app and moved on to Blockly. They programmed him to draw after problem solving along the way. That was a way to tie in the geometry standards. The teachers had wanted to focus on that, particularly.
With third grade, the focus was on rounding numbers. The teachers had a hard time getting kids excited about it, since it was sort of a “blah” topic. On the floor, I used painter’s tape and used the floor tiles because it just so happens that those measure out perfectly. They’re twelve inches or thirty centimeters in length. I made a number line from zero to one hundred fifty. The students had a sheet to keep record of what number they stopped on and what number it rounded to. We read a Stuart J. Murphy story about rounding. The students created their own code and picked a challenge card to go with it. Dash had to do certain things, like go backwards the entire time, or do a dance, just some extra code to add in there. Wherever Dash landed, they had to look on the floor, determine that number on the number line, and then determine what Dash would round to. They loved it. That was one of their favorites. Everyone wanted to do that activity when they saw the number line on the STEAM Lab floor.
From there, I had a group of fifth graders—not the whole class, but a group—that assists with other STEAM classes. After they saw what was happening with Dash and Dot, they decided they wanted to do something related to what they had been learning about ecosystems and the environment. They created an environmentally friendly Dash trash patrol. They programmed him to pick up trash and launch it into a trash can.
Back in February, we found the Dash and Dot Show on YouTube. We watched an episode where they had a fashion show, and my GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) Club students decided to make their very own Dash and Dot fashion show. I brought in all sorts of fabric, materials, and supplies. They designed and made the Valentine's Day themed costumes for the robots. We created a runway and programmed Dash to walk down the runway while Dot would talk about the fashion that Dash was wearing.
My STEAM Team students also recorded a Dash and Dot Christmas special. In the show, Dash rescued Santa using a snow plow because there was so much snow on the ground. They made Santa out of Dot, dressed Dash like a reindeer pulling a sleigh made of Legos, and had Santa come into town. For the close of the show, I had one student who really wanted to learn how to use the Xylo app. He taught himself all about music and how to play the song Joy to the World. Our video was shared with others at a local Arts Council meeting. Everyone loved it!
I’m constantly doing things with Dash and Dot, but those are the highlights that kids have really enjoyed the most this school year.
Our school district places a strong emphasis on STEAM integration and instruction. This is my second year as a STEAM teacher at our school. I serve on the STEAM Leadership Team for our district. Not only have I attended a wide range of professional development training on STEAM integration, but I have also led numerous STEAM workshops for other teachers both district and statewide. This summer, I’ll be presenting at a technology conference in our state. I’m going to be presenting about Dash and Dot and sharing these ideas with teachers so they can use them in their classroom as well.