More Support for Starting STEM Early
A new study has shown “inequities in science and math achievement begin as soon as students enter school”. While some of these racial disparities diminish when factors like socio-economic status, math and science achievement rates of the school, and students’ working memory are controlled for, others remain. The authors found that differences shown in students’ achievement in Kindergarten seemed to predict similar gaps throughout the elementary years. While the idea of racial disparities in STEM subjects is sadly not new, research into how early they occur is – opening the door to early STEM intervention as a possible solution.
The authors advocate for more STEM support in early years, even pre-Kindergarten, both inside and outside of classroom settings, particularly in math. Author and researcher Claire Cameron advocates for a similar approach, broadening the idea of ‘more or better opportunities for math and science learning’ to foundational cognitive skills that support this learning, like executive function, motor, and spatial skills. In her book, Hands On, Minds On, Cameron talks about how experiential, hands-on learning experiences can support students’ mathematical thinking in more meaningful ways than just rote memorization of math facts, or trying to bring worksheets to preschool.
VEX 123 offers a wonderful opportunity to bring the hands-on learning approach to students, through experiential learning with a robot. Starting simply with the Touch button interface, teachers can embed mathematical and scientific thinking into activities with the robot. For instance, in the Robot Parade Activity students code their 123 Robot to drive along a parade route. As they plan, code, and test their projects, students are exercising their working memory, practicing 1:1 correspondence, and using spatial language to communicate where the robot needs to drive and turn.
Prompts about how many more steps the robot needs to go, or comparing the number of left and right turns in a project, or simply demonstrating how the robot needs to move not only supports early math learning, but also spatial reasoning, a strong predictor of mathematical achievement. Add to that the hands-on component of using the Art Ring, and you build in fine motor skills, and make the learning that much more engaging! While the teacher may be thinking of this activity as part of a math lesson, students are feeling the fun and excitement of a Robot Parade, opening the door to developing interests in STEM.
Bringing more math and science to young students is important, and could prove a powerful intervention for addressing racial disparities in achievement and student interest in STEM subjects. However, simply adding ‘more math’ in the form of drills or practice worksheets may not do the trick – instead, adding engaging experiences that infuse math and science concepts and engage foundational cognitive skills, like with VEX 123, are likely to be more impactful and meaningful in the same amount of class or home time.
New Webinar: Implementing the VEX Continuum & Introducing the VEX Robotics Educators Conference
Missed the webinar? No problem! Visit webinars.vex.com to view the latest webinar, which aired on February 22nd. In this webinar, hear from educators who have implemented the VEX Continuum K-12 in their schools this year. Learn about how different schools approach the task of bringing more STEM and computer science to their students.
Watch as Jason goes on to introduce the VEX Robotics Educators Conference, and get excited about the opportunities that the conference, and PD+, can bring to your professional development! Learn about how the conference will bring the PD+ Community to life, and how you can be a part of it. This year’s Educators Conference will be held April 27-29, 2023 in Dallas, TX. Immerse yourself in the excitement of the VEX Robotics World Championships, and get ready to be inspired! Visit conference.vex.com to learn more and register today.
Highlights from the VEX Library: Articles for VEX IQ and V5
New IQ Article: Engaging Students Who Complete an IQ Build Quickly
As you are implementing IQ STEM Labs in your setting, students will naturally complete their builds at different times. If you want your class to work through STEM Labs together at a relatively uniform pace, it is important to think ahead about how you will engage those students who finish building earlier than others. This article provides several suggestions for meaningful learning activities they can complete as the rest of the group finishes building.
Among the suggestions in the article, are new IQ Activities designed specifically to use the pieces remaining in an IQ Kit after a robot is built, like Build a Wagon, Tallest Tower Challenge, and Ramp Racers.
- Build a Wagon is a great option if you want to do more with your robot build, and has students create an addition for their robots to be able to transport an object like an IQ Cube.
- Tallest Tower Challenge presents a unique challenge as only the pieces remaining in the Kit can be used in a mini-competition between partners.
- Ramp Racers offers students a chance to construct a ramp and then race wheel designs to see which can travel the furthest the fastest.
These Activities, along with the other suggestions in the article can be a great resource for differentiating instruction when building in class. Students will naturally build at different paces, and having clear expectations for how to continue when a build is complete can help make class run more smoothly for all involved.
New V5 Article: Using VEX V5 Activities in the Classroom
Your VEX V5 classroom is a multifaceted learning environment, enabling students and teachers to have learning experiences through multiple avenues. This article describes how V5 Activities are designed to be used both in conjunction with STEM Labs to extend lessons, and as stand-alone activities themselves. VEX V5 STEM Labs are designed for whole-class instruction, while VEX V5 Activities extend that learning by giving students the opportunity to make their V5 builds, code and kits their own.
New V5 Article: Teaching EXP STEM Lab Units with V5 Kits
While EXP STEM Lab Units were designed for the VEX EXP Kit and follow the Learn – Practice – Compete format, there are many ways to teach these STEM Labs with your V5 Kit. In this article, we provide you with resources to help adapt EXP STEM Labs, giving you the flexibility to teach both V5 and EXP STEM Lab Units with your V5 materials.
The article begins with recommendations for overall considerations, then goes on to offer more detailed comparisons and adaptations for each EXP STEM Lab Unit. This can be a great resource for teachers looking to expand their V5 curriculum with the competition-based STEM Lab Units for EXP. To learn more about how to incorporate both EXP and V5 STEM Labs together in your classroom, see this V5 Cumulative Pacing Guide.
Featured Speakers Announced for the VEX Robotics Educators Conference!
Learn from and with leading educators, researchers, and innovators in STEM in Keynotes and conference sessions with our Featured Speakers. Hear first hand about how the VEX Continuum is bringing STEM learning to life in a variety of settings, from elementary schools to entire districts, and more! Conference speakers include:
Check out the full list of speakers at conference.vex.com.
New Training Courses added to PD+
February brought new Training Courses to VEX Professional Development Plus (PD+). The ‘Getting Started’ Courses use video-based Lessons to bring in-person style training to you through PD+. These courses enable you to learn at your own pace, with hands-on activities using your VEX materials, giving you the opportunity to participate in the kinds of engaging activities you would do in a workshop, from the comfort of your own space. Currently there are Getting Started courses for VEX GO, IQ, and V5. Two new introductory courses were added this month:
- Introduction to VEX 123 will help you get started coding and teaching with a robot in your classroom.
- VEX EXP Introductory Training Course will guide you through building with the metal and coding your robot, so that you can learn how to build, code, and teach with EXP in your setting.
Additional Training Courses using VEX IQ and V5 will be added soon. Training Courses are also available in different areas of STEM pedagogy and teaching. Hands On, Minds On connects interviews between author Claire Cameron, and Jason McKenna to chapters from her book, so you can learn more about Cameron’s comments in context. Using VEX 123 & VEX GO in Your Regular Education Classroom takes this summer’s live course materials and breaks them into a Training Course that you can access and work through anytime during the year.
Log into PD+ to explore the Training Courses on offer, and get started with a course in minutes!
New to VR: VEXcode VR Activity Labs
VEXcode VR Activity Labs are sequenced Activities with some additional scaffolding and support added to help students as they complete the Lab. Activity Labs are organized into three categories: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Beginner is intended for those beginner coders or those who are new to VEXcode VR. Intermediate Activity Labs challenges those students who are ready to move ahead with concepts like loops, and sensor feedback. Advanced Activity Labs cover concepts like variables, lists, arrays, and algorithms.
These Labs can help you make the most of a VEXcode VR Enhanced or Premium license in your classroom, as each Activity Lab uses a variety of Playgrounds to help students learn about the concepts at hand.