Halloween may be over, but the scariest time of year for educators is right around the corner… the weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter break. In this short block of time, with student excitement, unpredictable weather, and so many special events at school, it can feel impossible to cover content. (And did we mention student excitement? Because that particular note is worth repeating in December!)
Our favorite way to make the weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter Break easier, more successful, and academically challenging? Incorporate creative robotics! With solid links to academic subjects, you’ll still be checking things off of your list for the year, but these fun and hands-on activities will delight and engage students, right down to the final day before break.
Here are a few creative robotics activities with a holiday twist:
Educators know that sometimes in December it’s best to “lean into the skid”. If it’s a good fit for your school community, turn your classroom into a winter wonderland with some hand-made decor – animated with robotics! This decorated door, which features a moving Santa Claus on a servo-powered airplane, dangling interactive presents through a twinkling LED sky, was shared by educator David Sheeran. And all powered by the Hummingbird Robotics Kit. If you want to take the programming to the next level, you could incorporate sensors to trigger movement or lights when someone approaches the door. (Hint: If you program using MakeCode, you can download the program onto your micro:bit and have it run without a device.) Feeling extra festive? You could even start a decor competition in your school!
Snow Day Special
Embrace the winter weather (or lack thereof) by creating your own snow day! I’ve never met a student that doesn’t go bonkers for blizzards, and they’ll also love snowy activities like creating attachments to transform the Finch robot into a snowplow, creating snowflake LED art with the micro:bit array, or a mix of activities like this snapshot from educator Carmen Loughner. She challenged her students to experience a snow day with all of their senses through Finch Robot challenges. The Hummingbird Kit is also a great fit for snow day activities, from creating a snowman character to animating a snowy scene with craft materials. What other snowy activities can you think of?
Robot Dreidel Game
Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of… robots! Bring this beloved Hanukkah game to life with programming and the Finch Robot! In this robot dreidel game, students will use their micro:bit LED array and some programming magic to transform their Finch into a dreidel. Just like the traditional wooden top, students can’t predict what the micro:bit will land on – gimmel, shin, hay, or nun. Students can go with the classic rules of dreidel, customize their own version of the game, or even create their own game of chance. Perfect for a holiday party!
Hummingbird Holiday Village
Looking for a more complex project for your class to tackle as a team? Create an interactive holiday village with the Hummingbird Robotics Kit, like educator Sarah Jenkins! Or find inspiration in this photo from Lorraine Shaffer, the Executive Director of Kids Innovation Playground. Invite your students to incorporate their favorite winter or holiday traditions into structures that move, light up, and interact with viewers using sensors.
To make things even more special, you can turn your holiday village into a showcase for an authentic audience by throwing an event for students, parents, or other members of the school community! Consider your audience and add an aspect of human-cenetered design to the project. No matter how you approach it, this personalizable project is so much fun.
Educators often focus on what winter celebrations have in common – and so many traditions and celebrations center around light. In this simple project, use the Hummingbird Kit to transform recycled materials into flickering candles for any winter celebration – like a kinara, St. Lucia Crown, luminary, lights for a Christmas tree, or memorial candle. In this video, we go behind the scenes of a paper towel roll menorah. How will you use LED lights to incorporate light into your holiday?
Robot Holiday Parade
Take your seasonal celebration to the next level with a robot holiday parade! You can transform your Finch Robot into a parade float driving in front of a green screen like Marianne Greene, create a decked-out winter robot rover with the Hummingbird Kit, or even a combination of the two!
We love the low floor, high ceiling possibilities for this project. With younger students or limited time, create a simple attachment for the Finch and have it drive in a straight line down a parade route. Make your programming more complex by putting obstacles into your route, adjusting speed, following the route using the robot’s line following sensors, adding lights, or even a song and dance routine (after all, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is known for its musical performances!).
If you’re working with the Hummingbird Kit, then the sky’s the limit! You can create a simple rover or box rover out of recycled materials, and decorate to your heart’s content. Add LEDs, moving components, sensors… anything you’d like! The mix of engineering, art, and creating is sure to engage and delight students.
micro:bit Window Scene
Diane Horvath inspired this fun and simple micro:bit activity that combines art and making with simple programming and digital animation. Our favorite part? It’s so versatile that it can be used with the Finch Robot, the Hummingbird Kit, or even just the micro:bit! This project can work year-round simply by changing the picture and animation you include (think snowflakes, fireworks, dripping ice cream cones, blooming flowers…). As a bonus, the tiny scale of these scenes makes them extra adorable!