Innovators - Becky McDowell
K-5 | Technology Skills | App & Robot
Becky McDowell is a K-5 STEM Teacher/Team Leader for Barrington 220 School District. Becky uses Wonder Workshop’s Dash and Dot with students in grades K-4.
In our Barrington 220 STEM program, we see all of the students at some point during the school year. We have expanded our program each year since we started STEM in our elementary schools 4 years ago. Kindergarten now has at least five STEM days throughout the semester and Fourth grade has 25 days. Currently, we have four STEM teachers, each serving two of our eight elementary schools. We each have twelve Dash robots and then I have an additional three Dot robots I used for the Wonder League.
Almost all of our Kindergarten teachers have a full Wonder Pack that includes Dash, Dot, the xylophone, and a catapult. I go into Kindergarten for additional STEM days to help the teachers and students learn how to use the different apps and tools for Dash and Dot. Sometimes the students show me things I didn't know about!
We use our robots in a lot of different ways. For Kindergarten, we start with the Go app to explore and interact with the robots. Then, I use the Path app to introduce algorithmic thinking and sequencing.
I love using Puzzlets to program Dash and am excited that I just got more to use this year. We set up a maze challenge using 12-inch square foam mats that jigsaw together for students to program Dash to move from the start to the end. Some of our STEM teachers also placed a bowling pin at the end of a simple mat maze and used Blockly with Kindergarten and First grade to follow the path to knock over the bowling pin at the end.
With my older students, we use the Blockly app. Students are able to receive instant feedback while problem-solving through the challenges and they love the sense of accomplishment when they receive their Dash Driver's License. Dash is my favorite robot because of the Blockly Puzzles. When we are doing stations, it's more guided for my students compared to the other robot stations, where I have to explain more on what to do next or where to go.
Family STEM Events
We do family K-5 STEM events throughout the year and we always have a robot station where the families can program our various robots together. The kids love driving Dash around the cafeteria and knocking over the bowling pins. We had noticed that families didn't want to leave the robotics station and some others when it was time to rotate, so this last year we left the rotations open for families to go at their own pace. Everyone loved it! Students were able to demonstrate what they had learned during STEM with the robots, check out the robots from the high school robotics clubs, and solve engineering challenges together.
The second year that Wonder Workshop offered the Wonder League, I did it with about fifteen students in three groups. That was a little bit challenging because we had to use the Wonder app, which took more time to figure out than Blockly. The challenges were really fun and the students and I learned a lot about the capabilities of Dash and Dot and interacting together. One of my teams was an all-girls team. I think Dash is really appealing to both genders. I'm planning on using the mats and challenges from the league during my STEM lessons this year.