T5-STEM1-4 - First steps into STEM for young pupils through informal workshops1. Innovative Practice Work In Progress
1 University of Zagreb Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing
In this the paper we present an example of innovative practice in organizing informal STEM education workshops with young children. Our focus was on kindergarten through 2nd-grade pupils. The workshops were divided into two learning scenarios, unplugged programming and hands-on robot play. By introducing unplugged programming, programming is demystified in a simplified manner. This type of activity encourages understanding of the core concepts of programming such as algorithms and computational thinking rather than focusing on the programming language. In this problem-based learning scenario pupils had to program the movement of the robot icon on the graph paper by drawing a sequence of arrows and other simple symbols. In the second learning scenario, pupils were introduced to two educational robots used as a learning tools - Thymio and Codey Rocky. The aim of the second activity was linking the programming concept to the real-world scenario. This gamification strategy excites pupils, provokes curiosity and engages learning. With this activity, pupils had an opportunity to explore the different designs of the robots and learn about the possibilities they offer trough different predefined functionalities, functions, sensors and user interfaces. Because of the young age of the participants, only the oldest group was given pre- and post- questionnaires. The pre-questionnaires contained questions about the pupils’ background knowledge, i.e. basic concepts of programming and robotics. The post-questionnaires were designed to evaluate the workshops impact on the pupils’ perception of these observed concepts and their overall satisfaction with the workshops. With this example of innovative practice in promoting programming and robotics for young pupils, we showed that even unplugged activities help in bringing technological concepts closer. Combining unplugged activities with robots helps bridging the gap between imagination and reality, therefore improving learning. These types of activities serve as an introduction to the possibilities of technology and are good for the younger population or for novice learners.