Recently, we attended SXSWEDU to talk to educators from around the world about the power of Social Emotional Learning with Robotics. We want to share those resources with you. We’ll be sharing five activities created specifically to integrate robotics into CASEL’s five core SEL competencies – complete with directions, materials, and everything you need to integrate these activities into your classroom.
When you think of social emotional learning (SEL), do you picture computer science? Maybe not; but research proves that CS is an engaging, hands-on way to help students develop and strengthen the soft skills they’ll need to become strong citizens, teammates, and leaders.
“STEM skills aren’t the only lessons students learn from robotics,” says Abigail Gilman in It Turns Out Learning Robotics Teaches Valuable Social Skills, a piece for WeAreTeachers.com. “Each time students set out on a robotics challenge, they are also building critical SEL skills like persistence, collaboration, critical thinking, creative innovation, and teamwork. The list goes on. As teachers, we’re tasked with molding the next generation of leaders, engineers, doctors, and scientists. And yeah, that’s an important job. But you know what’s also important? Teaching kids how to be good collaborators, thinkers, problem-solvers, and citizens.”
Not convinced? In You Can’t Teach Robotics without SEL, an article for SmartBrief, Megan Bounit and Barbara Tennyson write, “The truth is, you just can’t teach robotics unless you start with SEL. Robotics is such a natural vehicle for social-emotional learning that, if you plan it out right, your students will practice skills in all five domains of CASEL’s framework before they even start coding.” We could cite more recent pieces – many more! – but we’ll spare you.
In this Social Emotional Learning with Robotics series, we’ll be exploring each of the 5 core competence areas outlined by the Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning (CASEL). Each of these core competence areas contains a complex and critical set of skills that students need to become successful citizens of the world. Robotics and social emotional learning work together like a rotation servo and a wheel. And we love that approaching social emotional learning through the lens of hands-on technology will help to engage and destigmatize SEL conversations for more students – including those that may not be ready for full-class discussions or direct SEL lessons. Providing a variety of opportunities for students to engage in social emotional learning benefits every student, which in turn benefits class community, classroom climate, and teacher experience. Those are some big benefits from one little robot!
Today, we’re exploring a Finch Robot activity designed to help students strengthen their self awareness skills.
What is self awareness? Here’s the definition from the Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning (CASEL): “The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. This includes capacities to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose.” Understanding the layered and intersectional aspects of identity is a long and rewarding process. Exploring this as a class strengthens classroom community, increases students’ sense of belonging, and helps to create an environment where students can feel safe to take risks and make mistakes.
Here’s an activity that allows students to explore their identity through likes, dislikes, and personal experiences, and to learn more about the identities of their classmates. It’s called “I Feel, Who Feels?” and it’s based on the Responsive Classroom activity called, “I Have, Who Has?” In this activity, students stand or sit in a circle, each with their robot and programming device. One at a time, students make statements that reflect their interests, experiences, or identity. Through programming their robot to move, light up, or make sound, classmates can show the student speaker if they have felt or seen something similar. Students get to know each other, discover new connections, and explore their identities while strengthening programming and robotics skills – all in a low-pressure and fun activity!
Find detailed, step-by-step directions on the card below (Hint: You can also save this card to print out and use later!):
“I Feel, Who Feels?” statements can fit a number of themes, depending on what you want your students to focus on (think “I feel confident about multiplication problems, who else loves to multiply?” for math class or “I feel sad when I read Winn Dixie, who else cries reading books about dogs?” for RLA). Find examples of the identity-based “I Feel, Who Feels?” statements that we created here.
If you have the time, this is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the Finch Robot’s dry erase surface! Allow students some time to decorate their robot in a way that feels meaningful to them, using any words, symbols, or colors that they like. As the class looks around the circle at all of the robots, they will get to know their classmates in a new way.
Would you try this self awareness through robotics activity with your class? What other robotics activities have you tried that have helped your students to strengthen their social emotional learning skills?