Summer Adventure Club: Robotics Teaches Life Skills in a Fun Way

Summer Adventure Club: Robotics Teaches Life Skills in a Fun Way

Summer camps usually are a way for young children to pass the time, have some fun, meet new friends and maybe learn a little something. Primrose Schools® elevates the summer camp experience with Summer Adventure Club, where children develop skills for a lifetime.

New this year, participating Primrose schools will host a two-week junior robotics competition and “maker” challenge. (Click here to find a school.) Children will be introduced to engineering design — they’ll meet the Dash robot and learn how to code it to perform simple tasks — and then they’ll use design thinking as they work in teams to compete in an exciting, friendly robotics challenge against other Primrose schools.

Robotics Teaches Children to Problem-Solve

Coding and programming are widely recognized as beneficial for early childhood development, provided the teaching is structured well and appropriate for younger children. By programming a robot, children learn higher-level problem-solving skills that they’ll use for the rest of their lives — they strategize, figure out a solution, test it out, fail sometimes, and try again, says Dr. Maria Shaheen, senior director of education, research and development at Primrose Schools.

Robotics is popular in middle schools and high schools. Summer camps also may center on robotics, but it’s often geared toward older children. There has been very little of it for children younger than 12. Primrose is changing that.

“We know from the research,” Shaheen says, “that when you introduce children to the STEAM fields [science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics] and STEAM activities at a very young age, they do better in mathematics and science, and they also are more likely to imagine themselves in future STEM professions, as opposed to children who weren’t exposed at an early age.”

By starting early with robotics, children also regard science and mathematics much more positively when they’re older, Shaheen says. “It’s about forming those early views of what science is and what mathematics is and what engineering is,” she says. “Engineering really isn’t this far-out, weird concept. It’s fun. You use engineering skills on a regular basis and don’t even know it.”

Primrose: Leaders in Robotics for Young Children

To develop the robotics curriculum, Primrose has modeled the engineering design thinking process of major engineering design schools and made it appropriate for children in kindergarten to fifth grade. “They solve problems. There’s a lot of creativity. They learn how to be really strategic thinkers,” Shaheen says. “And at the same time, it’s all really fun and very collaborative.”

Just like any learned skill, the key to teaching robotics to young children is to start small and build up. Primrose reviewed many robots and selected Dash for its appropriateness for young children and its adaptiveness to different skill levels.

“Anyone can participate,” Shaheen explains. “If I’ve never touched a robot before, I can be successful with Dash. It has preprogrammed codes where I only have to add one thing. There is also a blank screen where I can completely code it by myself.”

Unlike more advanced systems, this robot captures the imagination of young children. “Dash is fun!” Shaheen says. “It makes noises, it plays music, you can record your own voice. It really speaks to this age group.”

Robotics in the Summer and All Year Long

Although robotics is integrated into the Primrose curriculum all year long, the summer provides valuable extra time with the technology.

“We do light robotics and minor design challenges during the school year — for example, students might build a ramp or a bridge for the robot or help the robot solve this particular problem,” Shaheen says. “But now they get to do some substantial types of design challenges over the summer, because they have all day and can participate in multiple ways.”

On one hand, children can flex their design thinking to program the robot to use a gripper to pick up an object or navigate around an obstacle in a maze, challenges that may take several days to complete. On the other hand, children can express their creativity by making an outfit for the robot. “Someone could create a sports team outfit. Someone could create a dress,” Shaheen says. “They get to use their imagination.”

Also, because Summer Adventure Club brings together children in a wide age range — from kindergarten to fifth grade — it provides a unique opportunity for them to learn from one another.

“Children who might be a little bit more technologically savvy with the robot take on these natural leadership roles and mentor the other children,” Shaheen says. “Robotics teaches children this age many important life lessons — concepts and skills they can use throughout their entire life.” 

Primrose education experts use current research to incorporate STEAM-based learning into children’s everyday experiences. For more about STEAM, read:

Contact your local Primrose to learn more. Not all schools offer Summer Adventure Club, and themes including robotics vary by location.

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