May 22, 2024
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May 22, 2024
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Yavneh Hosts Robotics Workshop

When you think of robotics, do you picture Rosie from the Jetsons? Does the phrase “Danger, Will Robinson!” pop into your head? Do you think of a small vacuum cleaner zipping around you home? What actually is robotics?

Yavneh Academy was recently privileged to host a full day seminar on robotics for early learners. This day was the fulfillment of a dream by Chani Lichtiger, Yavneh’s Director of Educational Technology, who had attended a workshop this past summer given by Dr. Umaschi Bers entitled, “Integrating Technology into Jewish Early Childhood Education.”

At that workshop were representatives from many different day schools within the metropolitan area. Mrs. Lichtiger was so impressed by what she experienced that she organized a special day of collaboration, inviting the participating schools. JEC in Elizabeth and Manhattan Day School in New York City accepted the invitation. Along with Yavneh’s 1st grade teachers and technology integrators, and lower school Judaic principal Rabbi Steven Penn and Early Childhood Director Shani Norman, this motivated group of educators spent the day learning how to program their Kibo robots. Children learn best when they construct digital artifacts and knowledge by playing with and exploring concrete materials. Dr. Bers spent time with the teachers making certain they understood the curricular benefits and pedagogy involved in teaching young children robotics.

According to the website KinderlabRobotic.com, a Kibo is a “robot kit specifically designed for young children aged 4-7 years old. It is different from any other kit out there because it appeals to both technically minded kids and those that connect more to arts and culture or physical activity. Young children learn by doing. Children build their own robot with KIBO, program it to do what they want, and decorate it. KIBO gives children the chance to make their ideas physical and tangible—exactly what their young minds and bodies need. And KIBO does all this without requiring screen time from PCs, tablets, or smartphones. KIBO is based on over 15 years of research in learning technologies and child development at Tufts University, including testing with over 300 children and 50 teachers.”

The teachers who attended the session worked in pairs to build and program their robots to perform tasks that correlate to their specific curriculum. They were encouraged by Dr. Bers to see the whole picture; the engineering design process, programming, curriculum standards, technology and curriculum integration, and curriculum planning. Robots acted out stories from the Chumash, accompanied students in dance, marched and danced in a Yom Haatzmaut parade, and acted out letters from the English and Hebrew alphabet. Once the teachers grasped the concept of programming their robots, they were limited only by their imaginations.

Although the day was very long, it went quickly for the attendees. While the learning was intense, it was a most enjoyable experience. By the day’s end, a cohesive group was formed among the educators. They decided to form a user’s group, where the teachers from the different schools involved can share lessons, ideas, and experiences. This is a true example of collaborative learning and teaching in a creative, focused, and innovative way. The beneficiaries of the seminar will ultimately be the children who attend the future-forward schools involved, as they learn programming, music, dance, art, and engineering, all through the world of robotics.

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