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Bedford Hills Elementary Students Learn Beginner Coding Skills

BHES students learn coding with Bee-Bots

“This is called a Bee-Bot because it looks like a bee and it’s a robot,” said Bedford Hills Elementary School computer aide Robert Alspach. “We’re coding it to go places. We have to figure out what to do and tell the Bee-Bot how to get there.”

Thanks to a grant from the Foundation for Bedford Central Schools, Alspach has been guiding students through mastering early programming skills while reinforcing learning from multiple disciplines.

“It’s like a breakout session for students,” Alspach said, explaining that teachers will often sign up a portion of the class to visit the lab one day and another group the next day. “They are learning so much about spacing, direction and more.”

Alspach sets up age-appropriate games for each grade level. Many of the games are built around large tabletop gameboards he creates for each activity. Kindergartners recently did a rhyming game where they picked a card and then had to find a word on the board that rhymed with the word they chose. Next, they programmed the Bee-Bot to go to that word on the board. Fourth graders have been working on long division, so for another session, Alspach set up a game where students work on a problem, find the answer on the board and then program the Bee-Bot to go to it.

“I keep giving them new challenges,” Alspach said. “You have to keep them challenged.”

During a recent Bee-Bot session, second graders in Jennifer Nordstrom’s class were able to flex their artistic muscles. Alspach instructed students to attach a marker to their Bee-Bot and explore what kinds of shapes they could draw, switching out colors when they wanted to.

“I made a balloon lollipop!” one student shouted to friends.

“This one kind of looks like PacMan,” another said.

The activity required problem solving and students collaborated even while programming Bee-Bots independently.

“The hardest part for them is turning,” Alspach explained. “You really have to think about which direction the Bee-Bot needs to move depending on the angle you’re looking at it. When they get that part down, I challenge them to back up and go to the beginning. Now the turning is the opposite. Students love that challenge.”

As the second graders tried to draw with the Bee-Bots, they talked through their processes out loud and sometimes tried to help each other troubleshoot.

“I’m trying to make a square, but I just keep making circles!” one student said before another came over to investigate.

“Why did mine stop?” another asked before a classmate noted a bump where two tables met. The change in elevation tripped up the Bee-Bot.

Though challenging, students enjoyed the exercise.

“Using Bee-Bots is fun because they move around. I like to create designs,” Paris said. “It’s a little bit hard to make it move the way I want it to, but it’s fun!”

BHES second grader codes a Bee-Bot