Twin Teachers Share Advice for Creating an After-School Robotics Club
Picture this: students who can work together to solve a hard problem and are actually excited about it! We can help you make it happen.
Have you considered starting a robotics club at your school? With a little material gathering on the forefront, you will be able to have a standing robotics club year after year that students will be begging to join.
Our names are Morgan Mercado and Taylor Wallace. We’re twin sisters who happen to partner teach together at the same school in South Louisiana! You can follow our teaching adventures on our Instagram @doubledutyteachers! We teach 4th grade gifted students and have garnered a passion for STEM and robotics.
Getting Started with Our Robotics Club
Our robotics club started based on a grant that allowed each elementary school in our district to receive 6 Dash robots, 6 Dot robots, and 6 sets of challenge cards from Wonder Workshop.
After a year of them collecting dust, we realized that it was a challenge for teachers to fit robotics into their already jam-packed curriculum.
So, we asked, how could we give students the opportunity to have experience with these materials? That’s when the idea to start a robotics club after school was born!
Thanks to our amazing robotics mentor, Jorey Kruppa from Barnes and Noble, in 2018, we allowed students to express their interest in joining our club. Jorey would prove to be an amazing asset to our team. He walked us through the steps of starting our club and continues to support us in every way he can.
We decided the club would be held one day a week after school for an hour. We received SO much interest, and we really didn’t want to turn students away. So, we divided the interested participants into 3 sessions – each meeting for a 6-week period.
Teaching Coding, Technology, and Soft Skills
Our goal was to give students from all backgrounds a chance to be introduced to coding and technology that they may have never gotten a chance to learn about otherwise. We kept our club free and didn’t set parameters on club entry.
This club format worked tremendously, and throughout the 6 week “course” we introduced them to concepts like growth mindset, coding, teamwork, and problem solving.
Students would meet in our classroom after school every Wednesday for an hour. We’d begin the club by sorting students into groups of three. We assigned these groups strategically by putting students with people that were not in their homeroom class.
This way, students were encouraged to build relationships with people outside of their comfort zone in order to foster their communication skills.
After gaining familiarity with the robots using their challenge cards, we gave each team a problem to solve, and ended the club with them presenting their work to their families and our school staff.
An Example Project You Can Use: Going Digital With Picture Books
When the students were familiar with coding, we read a picture book. You can use any book for your club but find a problem that the main character needs to solve. Then, challenge your students to solve that problem with their coding knowledge.
You can even incorporate art and STEM by having them build a component to go with their robot and code.
At our last meeting, parents are invited to check out what their students have been working on and short presentations are made. During the presentation, students would give a summary of the story (for parents who hadn’t read it), define the problem, and show off the solution they created.
The next year, we even added rubrics and judges to take the “competition” element to the next level! Take a look at our Instagram- @doubledutyteachers- to see some examples of what we’ve done with our clubs in the past.
And it works well online too!
After our first round of presentations, our staff and families were fully bought into the idea of the importance of teaching these skills.
They were amazed at the knowledge our students were demonstrating – and not just about robotics and coding – but also teamwork, presentation skills, creativity, and so much more!
Going National & You Can Join!
Now that the word is out, our club is growing and we’re even working with a team to hold our first annual district-wide robotics competition!
We’d love to see this robotics club concept take flight in schools across our district. Ideally, we’d love our students to be able to connect with students all over about the concepts they’ve learned and also teachers who are able to collaborate across schools!
If you’re interested in this idea, but don’t know how to gain access to the materials, check out DonorsChoose! Making a project on this website can help you gain robotics equipment without breaking the bank. You could also look into writing a grant or presenting the idea to your principal or PTC committee in case they have funds as well.
To make this club work, you only need one teacher, but two teachers definitely help the process run smoother. You’ll need coding equipment. There are many options for this (even cyber options) – you don’t need to use Dash and Dot robots like we do.
It was an extremely rewarding experience, and our hope is that these students now consider the world of technology when exploring career options.
We trust they will take the skills learned in this club into the regular classroom as well, teaching their peers about growth mindsets and the importance of teamwork.
If you’re interested in starting something like this at your school, let us be those mentors for you! Connect with us below.