It’s not every day elementary students get to learn how to program a robot, but this week, incoming second graders Aizley Koecheler, Tyeler Richie and Kate Fredrickson got to do just that at the Mankato district’s Camp Ignite.
It’s a new camp that takes a reimagined approach to the district’s summer targeted services by offering kids hands-on experiences in agriculture and STEM.
While the district has targeted services every year to help kids stay up to date on subjects like reading and math, Camp Ignite offers kids who have gone through a referral process the opportunity to take field trips that tie those subjects to both ag and STEM, and social and emotional learning.
During their off-site experience at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota Tuesday, the students and their classmates made KIBO robots spin, sing and more by scanning barcodes to give the robot directions.
“It went back, forwards, it spinned, it kept on spinning and then it stopped,” Aizley said, adding that it was fun to watch the bots move.
“We got to press the green triangle, and then we had to clap in the ear and then it moved,” Kate added.
Camp Ignite administrative intern Oscar Andrade Lara said the camp is primarily focused around community partnerships that offer students both on- and off-site experiences related to the learning that happens in the classroom.
He added that community partners were chosen based on industries prevalent in the Mankato area.
“One of the things that we thought about at the start was, Mankato’s such an agriculture-rich community, and so that’s what we chose to start with this year,” he said.
“All of the students have gotten a feel for what the agriculture community around us is, and then from that, what other partners can we collaborate with to focus on 21st century skills,” he added.
Other field trips and on-site experiences have included students taking a trip to MEI-Total Elevator Solutions to learn the math behind how an elevator works and working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to learn about the inner workings of a city.
“They had the opportunity (with MnDOT) to play different roles, one of them being site manager that read a manual so other students could build a bridge. That literacy component of understanding tough words, working through it, problem solving and then understanding the mathematics behind the strength of a triangle is critical,” Lara said.
Students also have gotten to take field trips to agriculture sites such as Christensen Farms in Sleepy Eye.
Skills are also tied into activities like coding the robots.
Kim Kleven, vice president of play and learning at the museum, said teamwork was a large component of the coding activity.
“Really what we want for children to get out of this is learning a process, following directions and seeing that they cause an effect … and how they can make the robot respond,” she said.
Kids were invited to participate this summer based on screeners the school district traditionally hands out to evaluate academic and social and emotional needs.
About 500 students from those who have completed kindergarten all the way to fifth grade going into sixth were attending the camp, which wrapped up Thursday.