Submitted by Rene Carroll
Students in the Columbia River Gorge Elementary after-school Coding Club are playing with blocks to increase their skills in critical thinking, programming and problem solving… Robot blocks that is!
“Cubelets are individual robot blocks designed to snap together with magnets,” said Sydney Termini, CRGE Coding Club co-instructor. “The blocks can be combined in a variety of ways to construct robots with different behaviors.” Termini, and co-instructor Allison McGranahan, have between 30 and 35 club members, from first to fifth grades, attending on Tuesday afternoons.
The CRGE Coding Club activities are often approached as small groups to inspire collaboration and teamwork. “The students are doing a lot of learning from each other,” Termini noted. “Students naturally communicate with each other as they share their Cubelet designs. Each brings different experience to the project. I’ll hear a student pipe up and offer suggestions based on something they have tried in the past that worked.”
And in coding club, as in life, attempting and failing can be okay the first time. “This is a powerful lesson for some of our higher thinkers who might be upset with an apparent failure,” Termini said. “Opportunities to learn through this type of activity provides the chance for them to recognize all that they have learned from working through the problem-solving process.”
The Cubelet materials were made available by the Fort Vancouver Regional Library for the club on February 12. Rachael Ries, FVRL Washougal branch manager, was on hand to provide an overview and give student guidance. “Supporting student success is one of our top library district priorities,” said Ries. “It’s so smart to pool our resources so kids have access to learning tools like the Cubelets. I enjoy working with the teachers and the kids and it connects the kids to the library in more ways than just through books.”
“Rachael joins us about once a month and each time brings new challenges for the students,” said Termini. The instructional materials will make their way to the school library for use during library time with librarian Heather Kassel. “Most classrooms have at least one student in coding club so they can take the opportunity to help teach their peers,” said McGranahan.
“I am very pleased with the number of young girls who are participating,” Termini pointed out. “It’s exciting that the interest level is there. And they are passionate too. I hear it in their conversations as they discuss ideas and problem solve.”
“One of our goals for coding club is for students to have the ability to apply critical thinking in the classroom for subjects like math and even language arts,” said McGranahan. “These experiences and activities help them become better problem solvers.”