Pleasantville Middle Schoolers Learn Computer Programming

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Donovan, a fifth grader at Pleasantville Middle School, spread out on the classroom floor with his laptop on one side and a robotic car he made from a Lego Spike kit on the other. A smiley face made of lights blinked on and off on the roof of the car, as if saying “hello.”

“That’s great,” said Bryan Gaiser, who teaches the fifth grade STEAM class. “I haven’t seen anyone do that before.”

Donovan was happy to show his teacher just how it was done. He cast his laptop screen onto the classroom’s big TV so everyone could see how to arrange the blocks of code to program the car’s lights.

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“They are learning by doing,” Gaiser said. “I want them to focus on programming.”

Throughout the first quarter of the year, fifth graders in Gaiser’s STEAM class used a variety of learning tools. They started with, then moved on to Ozobot robots and ended with Lego Spike kits, which teach the basics of computer programming through a block coding system. By the end of the quarter, the students even choose their own goals of what they want their robots to do. It is a child-centered learning environment that encourages students to try new things, take risks and have fun.

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“We try it to see what works and what doesn’t work,” Hailey said. “If it doesn’t work, we make changes.”

On a recent day, the students gathered to share what they had created.

“It was a little hard at first but then I got the hang of it,” said Mae, whose robot car raced across the floor. “I told my parents about this class, and they were very impressed.”

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