Shrewsbury High School LEGO Outreach Project
The project involves Primary schools coming into Shrewsbury High School and completing activities every Tuesday afternoon for 6 weeks. The Shrewsbury High School minibuses collect the primary school children and return them at the end of every session. During the sessions the pupils build and program their robots to complete Space activities. The tasks involve the pupils to problem solve to get the precise movements right. Please click here for an example of the type of activity the pupils have to get their robots to do.
Over last year and this year the following schools have participated in this project St Georges Primary School (2015 and 2016) Much Wenlock Primary School (2015 and 2016) Mereside C of E School ( 2015 and 2016) Coleham Primary School ( Second half of Autumn term 2015) Shrewsbury High School Prep ( Summer 2016).
The aim of the project was to improve the accessibility of the new coding curriculum which was being introduced to KS2. Teachers at the primary schools needed a method to introduce the complex ideas in a fun way.
The development of the pupils confidence and skills during the 6 week program will be monitored.
The partnership was devloped after the school received funding through HSBC, which provided the Lego mindstorm robots to be purchased. The idea was so inspirational that the Department of Education also awarded the program funding so it could be developed, and more schools could attend. Emily Brick from Shrewsbury High School runs the project alongside the Chemistry technician Mr Richard Leferve . The school has also been nominated for awards at the Independent schools Awards.
The program requires Lego Mindsrorm core kits and the software to run the program. It also requires the space software.
The school provides transport, to and from Shrewsbury High School every week and also a snack and a drink for the pupils.
Shrewsbury High School provide the funds for this.
The project is a huge success with it being nominated for an Independent school award for 2015 in 'Best independent-maintained school collaboration' which we as a school are extremely proud about. Shrewsbury High School has a number of testimonials from the schools involved which will be featured in a case study about the partnership. See below
Case study 2 - Lego Mindstorm Space Challenge
Lead school: Shrewsbury High School
Partner schools: Greenfields primary (40 yr 6 pupils); Much Wenlock Primary (25 yr 5 pupils); Mereside Primary (20, yr 6 pupils)
Subjects: ICT, science, programming, design and technology.
Goal: Help develop ICT, programming and leadership skills.
Started late Feb 2015 – no end date
Lego Mindstorm is not a simple child’s toy. The name represents the hardware and software pupils use to create customized, programed robots that go on ‘missions’. At Shrewsbury High School, pupils from local primaries learnt the coding necessary to move a robot and work on the same problems that scientists planning for travelling to and living on Mars are currently working on.
The project was born in Shrewsbury’s strategic outreach plan and a desire to support other local schools that fitted with the ideals and vision of its headmaster, Michael Getty.
The school had briefly used a previous, more complicated version of Mindstorm and realised that newer, more accessible versions would be of value to learning the new computing and programming requirements at Key Stage 2. Offering local schools the chance to learn code through Lego Mindstorm EV3 felt a natural fit. Through existing personal relationships, Greenfields, Much Wenlock and Mereside primary schools signed up to a new partnership (they had never worked together before). The nature of the project gave the partner schools experiences beyond the scope of what their primary school could offer.
Over a six-week block, pupils from each school completed six missions of gradually increasing complexity. Initial sessions explored how the robots were put together, with subsequent sessions analysing how computer programming determined how the robots required for the missions moved (up, down, left, right, forward, and backwards) by learning to code a portable, computer linked ‘brick’ - the “heart of a robot”.
Coding required strong logical reasoning skills, looking at parts in new and creative ways and applying that knowledge to move a robot in the right way to complete its mission. To illustrate, one mission involved picking up rock samples and moving them to a specific place, another the firing of a rocket.
The children would initially be unclear but learnt by doing and building their ‘bot’ over the first few sessions. Any initial apprehension quickly dissipated once they learned some basic movements of the bot.
From visits it was clear the children interacted well, discussing what was needed, happily working through trial and error, making discoveries by mistakes, checking and re-checking code, watching videos if they got stuck or helping each other out. The environment was one of communal support, supported by tutors and older (year 9, 12 and 13) pupils from Shrewsbury, an environment where it was safe to be creative and fail.
Successfully completing each mission meant earning a gold star on a badge. The final week / mission culminated in pupils showcasing their work to parents and governors and the Headteacher presenting the children with certificates.
The project length was purposefully set as 6 weeks as Michael explains:
“You feel like you’ve got something proper out of it. To take on more schools would mean the timetable would be too rushed…..By the time they have finished they know where they are going, the parents know all about it and the school have helped build or keep those links (with partner schools)…we’re proud of it” (Michael Getty, Headteacher at Shrewsbury)
The project has seen multiple benefits. For Shrewsbury, it has been meeting their targets set by the school development plan; enabling further collaboration with local primaries, and developing links with parents. Michael puts it more eloquently:
“You set off hoping you can do something good, but I don’t think you really expected them (the schools) to be so appreciative of it…you don’t know how it’s going to go but there were so much expressions of warmth toward it and the best way to say that is that I didn’t expect it” (Michael)
The work has seen more pupils are willing to come and more schools wanting to get involved. Usually for year 6 pupils, Shrewsbury has seen partner schools request they support their year 5 pupils as well.
For year 9, 12 and 13 pupils at Shrewsbury it was a chance to interact and lead the other children. It provided volunteering experience for the Duke of Edinburgh award and chance to see how they can be a positive role model for younger children.
“Some of the girls who help aren’t very sporty; they wouldn’t do the sports leadership partnership work (done at Shrewsbury) so this is a good chance for them to be a role in academic way is great” (Emily Brick, teacher and project lead at Shrewsbury)
Pupils were asked simple yet appropriate questions before and after the project to see if their confidence in coding increased as well as their understanding of angles, estimation and measurement. This complimented softer measures of Shrewsbury staff speaking with the partner schoolteachers and interacting with the pupils. The key findings were:
All would be confident in teaching others who know nothing of programming how to do so
One in five were not confident at all at the start of sessions. That value fell to zero at the end
There self-declared level of proficiency (as assessed by confidence level) rose from 21% being confident at the start to 71% very confident at the end
On a scale of 1-10, assessing confidence in angles, estimation and measurement there was a small (0.8) change in average score before and after
Specifically from the pupils’ perspectives:
“Building it was a nightmare at the start then I worked out what to do and I liked building it”. (Mereside pupil)
“I liked seeing it move when it was programmed”.
“It is fun to work with a friend and sometimes it is a challenge, we then try to work out to do. Sometimes it is complicated but we try our best to figure it out. Sometimes I know the answer and my partner does not, sometimes he has the answer. When we do solve a problem, we feel very proud of ourselves” (Much Wenlock pupil)
"Mission six was one of the best ones we did because there was a massive hammer which smashed a button which launched a rocket. Mission three was tricky but it was fun. I liked mission 6 because you had to make the robot go forward then spin a helicopter spinning thing and that would launch the satellite” (Mereside pupil)
“We were very happy and proud to complete the first challenge and we know we are going to crack the second challenge”
(year 5 Much Wenlock pupil with maths and literacy difficulties, with dyslexic tendencies).
For teachers from the primary schools involved, the project helped develop their skills in programming and ability to support pupils. This was important in enabling them to support the sessions alongside Shrewsbury staff. Mrs I Jameson Year 5 teacher at Much Wenlock Primary School provides this testimonial:
‘The project is offering the pupils a very real opportunity to develop their coding skills in a way which would prove very difficult in a primary school class room. The high quality resources and challenging activities are stimulating for all involved. It has been great to see team work of a higher level than previously demonstrated by this group of pupils. They have become much better at talking to a partner and finding ways to solve problems together. Fine tuning the programmes to make improvements has been seen by all pupils. Pupils have been able to work at their own pace and I have seen huge motivation as a robot creeps a step closer to completing its mission. It has been a great leveller as unexpected children have proved to have greater success rates than those who usually storm ahead in tasks.
(Mrs I Jameson Year 5 teacher at Much Wenlock Primary School)
The project having strong support from the senior leadership team and headmaster was vital to success, were the existing relationships and the structured nature of the six week programme – the right balance of stretch for pupils and time commitment for the partner schools.
“It is perseverance really, being organised. Writing out early to schools, giving them a program of learning and saying do you want to be involved with what we are doing. If you can have the same tutors from the primaries come that helps as they know a bit more and can help out so a bit less pressure on E, tech and girls from Shrewsbury helping out”
When initially building the partnership there were difficulties. Other schools were “cold called” but without the existing personal relationship, there were difficulties. As well as the usual timetabling issues, the amount of set up and preparation that went into every session was considerable. This was not expected and had been evident even when using the ‘easier’ version of Mindstorm. Now two years in, occasionally the “hearts of the robot” would go wrong due to use. In these situations tutors and support technicians improvised with pupils working in groups of four rather than two.
With the Lego Mindstorm materials in place the project will continue. Storage for the Lego sets is causing issues and updating the key teachers’ skills on the programming takes time. However, these are not insurmountable problems. There remain extra financial costs to continue transporting the pupils to and from Shrewsbury and the occasional replacement “heart” worn out due to wear and tear, but Shrewsbury are content to fund these due to the positive relationships developed and the project still meeting the ideals of the school.
“I didn’t expect the warmth between the schools, how much positivity there was between the schools. The schools are hugely invested in the scheme” (Michael Getty)
Interestingly, and from the point of view of demonstrating impact in the future, Shrewsbury would like to grow the work but are limited by space and timetabled time of the tutors. Scope exists to use additional functionality of Mindstorm to further programming skills and also record via audio, video or written logs the journey of the learners - this would be an interesting means of showcasing their learner journey.
Pupils from years 5 and 6 take part in the project. Year 11 and 12 pupils from Shrewsbury High school assist with the project.
The pupils are mixed gender.
This is a rolling program for the school involved.