I have reflected a lot on what the PhD, educator, author and speaker Gary Stager told us in his webinar.
Professor Stager, the founder of Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute for educators has helped students of all ages in six continents not only to embrace learning by making, but also the power of computers as intellectual labs and vehicles for self-expression. In addition to that, his work has also helped leading professional development in the world’s first laptop schools and teaching students from preschool to doctoral programs. Professor Stager is currently the curator of the website “The Daily Papert” which helps educators to understand the huge influence his colleague, Seymour Papert had in the field of education.
His relationship as well as his synergy with Professor Papert’s ideas, mainly the ones about constructionism, make me reflect on the importance of the scrap robotics work which has demystified the teaching of programming and robotics here in Brazil. In doing so, we have dealt with many paradigm breaks which concern the process of experimentation and student experiences in an environment that is challenging and capable of conceiving playfulness as a gateway to the maker movement and the teaching of programming and robotics.
The robotics work with scrap was conceived in 2015 at *EMEF Almirante Ary Parreiras and it happened because of the need to regard school through technology teaching and with the premise of working with the maker culture as a gateway to teaching programming and robotics. *(EMEF Escola Municipal de Ensino Fundamental – Municipal elementary school)
When starting the diagnostic assessment during the Technology and Innovation classes with students from the 1st to 9th grade (more than 1000 students), 70% of them reported that garbage was a problem in the community because on rainy days it prevented them from going to school, due to flooding, and also that the dirty water brought diseases such as dengue and leptospirosis.
So, initially we proposed to have outdoor classes in order to understand the issue related to the garbage in the community and, during the walk in the community, to collect recyclable materials to develop the robotics work with scrap.
At first, I heard from the students “that robotics was not something for public school students”, because they did not think they could work with that. The situation was solved with a lot of talking and dialogue and through the opportunity given to them to become the protagonists of their own learning.
To overcome the challenges it was necessary to allow myself to learn from the process and to exercise active listening with the students, building and showing them the steps of this project that consisted of public classes and community awareness about garbage and proper disposal and in the path through the community, collection of recyclable and electronic materials, weighing and separation of materials; sale of recyclable materials not used in the work; exercise of creativity and critical thinking with the construction of prototypes and, finally, a technology fair, a second moment with the community and the opportunity for students to be protagonists by reporting their constructions and learning. Lessons related to the learning from Papert and Professor Stager!
The first prototype
To sharpen the students’ creativity and inventiveness and to bring the maker universe to the classroom, the first prototype built by a 6th grade class was a cart powered by an air balloon, which made students amazed, as they discovered themselves as makers, creators, having a learning experience with their own hands. Learning was so exciting that I had to repeat the experience with all the classes!
And I was sure I was on the right track when I started a storyboard lesson with the 9th grade and was interrupted by them asking me to make the cart too.
All the project’s steps were built with the students, who had total freedom to create and build their prototypes from non-recyclable materials and over three years they have improved and found solutions for the community referring to the constructionist model, positively interfering on the students’ level of learning, leading them to present more complex levels of cognitive development in the search to solve real problems in the educational territory, with the teacher in the role of creative facilitator by providing an environment capable of providing connections individual and collective, and it is necessary to revolutionize education by transforming them into great potential for meaningful experiences and learning.