Teaching Robotics to Elementary Students
We are often asked if our Intro to Robotics
course is a good fit for elementary aged kids. The short answer is no, we generally recommend that a child be working at a middle school or high school level prior to starting the course. Our goal is always for a student to have the best possible experience and starting too early can cause a child to be overwhelmed or lose their spark for robotics before they've really had a chance to dive into it. With four kids of our own, we've made that mistake (more than once).
But never fear! You have options. So what can you do in the meantime to lay the important groundwork? Here are a few techniques we've used with our own kids:
- Learn some of the basic concepts behind building circuits using Snap Circuits. Our kids have spent many happy years working with Snap Circuits. We recommend getting the largest set you can afford and honestly, if you can manage to get the one with the hard case, it does a great job of keeping everything together and safe. Tip: We recommend keeping an eye on the pricing on Amazon as they do sometimes significantly lower the price on Snap Circuits sets.
- Learn basic programming with Scratch. Scratch is the brainchild of MIT scientists and was developed to get young children interested in programming. We love Scratch for a few reasons: First, it can be used by a wide range of ages. Our 6 year old works with Scratch Junior, the 9 year old with regular Scratch. Second, it can be used offline, so there is no need for your child to access the internet. Finally, it's FREE. How fabulous is that? It also has no hardware requirements so there's nothing to buy. While no one is going to get a job someday using Scratch, it is impressively functional and is a great way to get started with programming. It also teaches the logic and organization skills that are then transferrable to other programming languages (like our personal favorite: Python!)
- Work alongside an older student or parent. If you have a middle school or high school student working on the Intro to Robotics course, or maybe you want to learn yourself, there's no reason a younger student can't join in. It's unlikely they will retain the technical info but it can be fun to build circuits and programs alongside an older sibling or parent and then redo the program on their own later when they are ready.
Take your time, keep it fun, and when they are ready, we are excited to help teach your children robotics!