BRAINTREE (August 18, 2016) -- Last week marked the beginning of the Kindergarten Robotics initiative, a formal partnership between Dr. Marina Umaschi Bers, professor and director of the DevTech Research Group at Tufts University, and the Catholic Schools Office at the Archdiocese of Boston. Eleven elementary schools were selected as part of a competitive application process to thoughtfully integrate STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and mathematics) concepts into the curriculum and to introduce coding to young children. As part of this unique initiative, more than 80 KIBO robots will be used by kindergarteners throughout the academic year.
The two-day workshop centered on the engineering design process, coding concepts, and strategies for learning coding through play. Teachers completed a series of design challenges and experienced the learning process first-hand: experimenting with coding blocks, navigating KIBO to complete a set of tasks, and problem solving with their peers. The teachers also designed curricula for use in the classroom and utilized classroom teaching tools. As teachers integrate the developed unit into their curriculum, Dr. Bers will provide support and assist in educating parents and the larger school communities about the initiative.
Dr. Amy Ryan, associate superintendent of academics and digital learning, spearheaded the efforts to bring this initiative to the Archdiocese. She noted, “Through this innovative partnership we can provide young children with opportunities to better understand the digital world that they inhabit and cultivate the habits and mindset to become future engineers.”
As Dr. Bers further reflected, “Learning how to code is learning a new literacy. It’s a new way of thinking, a new way of expression. We start literacy when kids are young, when they’re curious and open to the world. It’s the same thing with coding.”
Often people consider themselves “arts” or “science” people. In response to that classification, Dr. Bers offered, “By 4th grade, stereotypes about who is good at STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – are already formed. So if we’re going to start programs that are geared to toward helping children engage with technology and programming, we want to start before the stereotypes kicked in. And there’s a lot of research that shows that the earlier you start, the better learning outcomes you’ll have, so we really want to start early.”
The goal of the Kindergarten Robotics Initiative is not just to teach robotics and programming, but to show how coding is part of our world. Said Dr. Bers, “With the KIBO robots the teachers can teach new concepts and new skills coming from computer science and engineering – but they can also use them to integrate with already existing curriculum of math, literacy, social science, religion, music, and art to teach something they’re already teaching, but in a new way.”
Kristina Favaloro, a K2 teacher at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School (Mission Grammar) in Roxbury, agrees. “The robots that we will build in the classroom will help students connect their environment with how something works. For example, learning about robotics will make the students question how the paper towel machine makes paper towels come out. It won’t be seen as magic, they’ll question ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ and know there is a sensor, and a motor.”
The schools participating in the Kindergarten Robotics Initiative are:
Blessed Sacrament School – Walpole
Holy Family School - Rockland
Immaculate Conception School - Newburyport
Our Lady’s Academy - Waltham
Our Lady of Perpetual Help School (Mission Grammar) - Roxbury
Sacred Heart School - Kingston
Sacred Heart School - Lynn
Sacred Hearts School - Haverhill
Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy - Mattapan Campus
Saint Patrick School - Roxbury
Saint Paul School - Hingham
About Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Boston
Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston educate 38,000 students in 116 schools. The schools offer a high-quality, rigorous education that is rooted in Catholic faith and values for students age 2.9 through grade 12. www.catholicschoolsboston.org
January 19, 2017, Braintree, MA – Highlighting a history of accomplishment anchored by a track record of academic excellence in an enriching faith filled environment, Cardinal Seán O’Malley and Kathy Mears, superintendent of Catholic Schools, announced a grass roots campaign to promote Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Boston. The “We believe in Catholic Schools” campaign will be launched this month in advance of the 2017 Catholic Schools Week, which runs from January 29 to February 4.
As part of a broad initiative to highlight the importance of Catholic education, the Archdiocese is leading a social media campaign, utilizing the Cardinal’s blog (www.cardinalseansblog.org), and distributing 40,000 car decals to Catholic school families and staff.
Partially funded by a private donor to the Campaign for Catholic Schools, the car decals read “We believe in Catholic Schools” with a blue plaid cross. “We chose this saying as it is reminiscent of our Creed, which is the basic expression of who we are and what we believe as Catholics,” said Mrs. Mears. She continued, “The saying also shows faith in our school system that educates close to 40,000 students each year.” The stickers will be distributed to 118 Catholic schools along with a letter from Cardinal Seán, thanking families for their commitment to Catholic education and encouraging them to display the decals on their vehicles.
Catholic Education Track Record
Catholic schools are the largest private educator of children in this country. Research shows that Catholic school students test higher than their public school peers. The graduation rate for Catholic high schools is 97%, with 96% of students going on to post-secondary education, 92% to four-year colleges. 60% of Catholic schools are in urban settings, and the schools are open to all families who are interested in quality Catholic education. Thirty percent of students in the Archdiocese who attend Catholic schools are not Catholic.
In recent years, Cardinal Seán has led an effort to rebuild struggling urban schools through the Campaign for Catholic Schools, which has built new regional elementary school academies in Dorchester, Mattapan and Brockton.
Catholic Schools Office/Archdiocese of Boston
617.779.3614 (direct dial)