Thursday August 24, 2017
Nature becomes Robots galore as pupils playground for master art of coding pre-schoolers By Jamie Adams
Newtown Playcentre has begun an outdoor forest session every Thursday morning. Team leader for the sessions Elizabeth Clement said the aim was for the children to have the space and time to explore the outdoors in a local setting where nature is their playground. “It is based on the belief that play in an outdoor setting has a unique role in the holistic development of the child. “They are free to learn, play and develop without toys, to explore the wonder of the natural world and experience all it has to offer,” Elizabeth said. One of the session leaders carries a backpack with first aid equipment, emergency contact numbers, some pens and paper, and a cooker. “Each session provides countless opportunities for relationship building with people, places and things on Mount Victoria, and it fosters a sense of place and connectedness in our community.” Elizabeth hoped the children could explore Mount Victoria in its entirety, including the newly built Mairangi Trail, and walking up to Te Akat-
arawa Pa. “Initially we plan to return to the same area as a base for gaining familiarity and working out how we can use the space and engage our imaginations without the constraints of walls and buildings,” she said. “The risks and challenges provide rich opportunities for learning, problem-solving and creativity, developing social competence, independence and autonomy.” The outdoors can provide a great sense of freedom, relieve stress and satisfy a natural need for adventure, Elizabeth said. Reaction from the children has been positive. “My favourite thing was finding the weta all in one piece,” Theo, 4, said. New tow n Playc ent r e runs sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9am to midday. It is co-operatively run and supervised by parents, with a high parent-to-child ratio, and the staff value child-led play. For more information or to come and visit a session, you can contact Emma 04 3893475 or email newtown@ playcentre.org.nz
Elena-Jin Pearce, Justine Rivera, Harmony Boyd and Angelina Toma with teacher Betsy Anderson and parent Karl Anderson. PHOTO: Jamie Adams
Animatronics are normally associated with creative design and special effects studios such as Weta Workshop. But across the road at Miramar Christian School, pupils have been engaging in some animation of their own. At the school’s Year 3-5 Totara Class every Wednesday afternoon robotic penguins, parrots, rhinoceroses and dinosaurs come to life at the touch of a tablet computer button thanks to coding taught to its pupils. Teacher Betsy Anderson said the school received funding from the Grocott Trust, a trust associated with Gateway Baptist Church in Miramar, to purchase 10 Jimu
robots with an 11th given to them for free by distributor Cellnet NZ. Jimu robots, the brainchild of American-based Ubtech Robotics, are used in schools around the world as part of their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathmatics) educational programmes. “The robots come in boxes. The kids build them and then they can do all sorts of stuff with them,” Betsy said. Once assembled it was just a matter of connecting them to their tablets via Bluetooth and applying code. “The coding is done through a really simple app,” Betsy said.
Although the kits were recommended for children eight years and older due to their technical nature, even younger pupils have had no problem assembling the robots, Betsy said. “We partnered our juniors with the senior [Year 6-8 Kauri] class and had them work together to figure them out.” The weekly robotics classes had pupils of all abilities completely engaged the whole time, she said. The Jimu robots on display when the Cook Strait News visited were of the “easy level” category. Betsy said the school planned to purchase 11 more that would be of a higher technical difficulty.
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IRWELL REST HOME Sophie Clement enjoys getting out and about in Mt Victoria forest. PHOTO: Supplied
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Cook Strait News 24-08-17