The Wild Finch

In 2017, The Wild Robot by Peter Brown was chosen for the Global Read Aloud. Classrooms around the world enjoyed this engaging story about a robot named Roz who is stranded on an island and learns from the animals how to survive in the wilderness. Fourth graders at Goodnoe Elementary School added a new dimension to the Global Read Aloud by completing a Finch challenge related to the book. For more great books that you can use to make ELA connections, see our Suggested Reading List!

Each group of students chose one of two projects connected to The Wild Robot. The first project was to retell a favorite part of the book using Finch; this project was based on Finch Tales. Students worked together to make props, program the Finch, narrate the story, and videotape the project. The goal of this first project was to have students work together to discuss a story and to make a plan to retell part of the story in an interesting way – by using the Finch.

The second project was to use the setting of The Wild Robot to explain a variety of geographic features that Roz would have to maneuver on the island; this project was linked to the fourth grade social studies curriculum. Students programmed the Finch to make its way through different geographic features while they narrated its path. Students had to come up with a list of geographic features that were part of the story, make the props to show the features, program the Finch, and record a video.

“It was fun to be able to bring the idea of a robot in a book into the classroom by using real robots. The work was challenging but fun! The children persevered because they were invested in their projects.” – Maryann Molishus



Students will be placed in groups of 4-5 and will choose a constellation to model. They will use at least 3 LEDs, 1 motor or servo motor, and 1 sensor. They will research the constellation and portray several facets of information that they have found. Students will keep a laboratory journal describing the astronomical attributes of the constellation (distance across in light years, type of stars, color of stars, age of stars, brightest to least brightest stars, when it appears in the Northern Hemisphere, etc.). The laboratory journal will also detail the design process of the group and any troubleshooting involved in the building/programming process. Students will write a report about the significance of the constellation with regards to mythology and history of ancient civilizations (did it signal planting season? what myths surround its form?). Students will portray the envisioned form of the constellation as seen by ancient civilizations (Orion is the hunter, etc.) and they will also show the position of stars in the constellation. Students will then input components (LEDs, motors, sensors, etc.) and program these components to significantly represent their constellation (intensity of one LED star as compared to another, the constellation moving on a servo to show its angled position at different times in night, etc.).

Lesson Procedures:

Procedures can be found in the PDF.

Electronic Project Interdisciplinary Creation (EPIC)

EPIC (Electronic Project Interdisciplinary Creation) was developed in the Mt. Lebanon School District (PA) as a collaboration between Cindy Bronen, a middle school science teacher, and Amy Barone, who teaches middle school history. This is as an end-of-year interdisciplinary project in which students learn basic programming skills and demonstrate something they learned in science or history during the year. This is an open-ended project; in the first year, topics ranged from a diorama depicting the Battle of the Alamo to projects depicting Newton’s laws of motion.

This project takes place during the last two weeks of the school year with over 110 students. Each period, one history and one science class are combined for a total of 45-50 students. These classes include students at a wide range of ability levels, including special education students.   This project was designed so that all students can be successful. Students who are able are highly encouraged to take their projects as far as they can. In addition, this project supports the curricular focus of a newly-developed STEM Academy that emphasized STEM curriculum, research, applications, 21st century skills, and scientific literacy.

Lesson Procedures:

Three documents are provided for this lesson: EPICSlides.pdf, EPICStudentPracticePacket.pdf, and EPICProjectPacket.pdf. The general steps are outlined below:

  1. Begin by using EPICSlides.pdf to introduce students to the project and to the sense-think-act definition of a robot.
  2. Introduce students to the Hummingbird board (thinking), the motors and lights (acting), and the sensors (sensing).
  3. Introduce students to the CREATE Lab Visual Programmer. Students should complete the exercises in the EPICStudentPracticePacket.pdf to learn to write expressions and build a sequence.
  4. Assign students to groups. Students should choose a topic from their history or science course to demonstrate with the Hummingbird. A group may choose to build on a previous project in history or science.
  5. Each group should being work on the EPICProjectPacket.pdf. This packet leads students through brainstorming ideas and creating a detailed plan for their robot. This plan must be approved by a teacher before the group begins to build their robot. The project packet also requires students to create a plan for the program that will control the robot.
  6. Students build and program their robots.
  7. After completing their robots, students must complete the EPICProjectPacket.pdf by answering a series of reflection questions about their projects.
  8. Students who complete their work early are encouraged to add additional features to their robots.

Mythological Monster Mashup

Second graders at Kentucky Avenue School in Pittsburgh, PA, use the Hummingbird robotics kit to create their own versions of monsters from Greek and Roman myths. Aimee Defoe, their teacher, incorporates this project into a larger cross-curricular unit that also focuses on myths in language arts and the history of ancient Greece and Rome. Students work in pairs to design and build their robots using mainly repurposed materials that would otherwise be discarded, such as cardboard and scraps of cloth.

Lesson Procedures: 

  1. Before the robotics portion of the project begins, have students explore mythological monsters in language arts. Read excerpts from the following books:
    • Greece! Rome! Monsters! by John Harris
    • Greek Myths by Marcia Williams
    • D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaires
  2. After reading Greek and Roman myths about monsters, have students work as a group to make a list of the features of different monsters. These features might include multiple heads, special powers, etc. Have the class work together to sketch the features of a monster.
  3. Lead students in a discussion of images from myth in the world around them. This can include making a list of gods, goddesses, and monsters referenced in books, TV shows, and advertisements; it can also include a field trip to the art museum to search for representations of myths.
    • This project can also be combined with a unit on the history of ancient Greece.
    • This project can also be carried into other subjects. For example, new vocabulary words like “sensors” can be incorporated into spelling lists.
  4. Before being introduced to the Hummingbird robotics kits, have students work in pairs to create a mashup monster that combines features from different mythological creatures.
  5. Introduce students to the components of the Hummingbird robotics kit. This can include a demonstration of a sample robot.
  6. Have students revisit their sketches to consider how they can use robotic components to animate their mashup monster. This project can be simplified for lower elementary students by limiting the number of components that they can use in their monster.
  7. Introduce students to the idea of computational thinking. This discussion should emphasizes that a program for the robot is a series of step-by-step instructions. Have students give you step-by-step instructions to complete a task within the classroom.
  8. Before each group begins to build, discuss their sketch and plan with them to ensure that their project is feasible. Remind students to bring in repurposed materials to use for their robot. Parents can also be asked ahead of time to save materials for the project.
  9. Have students begin to build their mashup monsters.
    • For younger students, it may be helpful to have stations for knives and hot glue so that students only use these tools with adult assistance.
    • To manage student questions, you may want to use the board or a large sheet of paper to have students sign up for help. This may help to prevent interruptions as you work with other groups.
  10. As students build, work with each group to show them how to use the CREATE Lab Visual Programmer. Use your sample robot to  demonstrate how to use lights, motors, and sensors. With a larger class, whole group instruction may be more appropriate for this step.
    • Encourage students to test each component with the Visual Programmer as they add it to their robot.
  11. When students complete their projects, provide an opportunity (such as an open house) for them to share their work with the school community.



Interactive Explorers

Students in grade five at Regency Park Elementary School in Plum, Pennsylvania, engaged in their first experience with Hummingbird Robotics kits while learning all about early European explorers in the Americas. Students used engineering, design, and programming to complete this task. Each group of students chose an explorer randomly, researched the explorer for key facts, wrote an autobiographical speech for the explorer to recite, and then created and coded their explorer to give the autobiographical information when an observer got close to it. Students were able to form teams and work together based on strengths. Students also learned problem-solving skills to correctly code the sequences and expressions for their explorer. This project was created by Lindsey Lamm and Donald Weisz (5th grade classroom teachers) with the inspiration coming from ASSET Incorporated training ( It was a collaboration between social studies and science. Time from both of these subjects was devoted to the project, and it contributed to students’ grades in both subjects.

Lesson Procedures:

This was designed as a beginner’s lesson for students with NO experience with the Hummingbird kit. This lesson was completed in six 40-minute class periods.
  1. We began this unit by showing the students an example of a completed robot. It was not an explorer, but the robot did everything the students were expected to do. We described the goals of the project to students. Each group had to create an Explorer to light up, wave, and speak about key facts in the explorer’s history when an observer got close to it.
  2. We then had the students research their given Explorer and make the body of the robot. This took approximately 1.5 class periods.
  3. Students then researched what their robots were going to say. We had two levels of this task. One level was a simple list of items that needed to be included in the explorer speech. The other level was a speech set up with blanks in the sentences for a more guided approach, as we wanted this to be as independent as possible for the students (see ExplorerSpeech.pdf). This approach worked well, and we would use it again.
  4. Next, we had a day where students simply got to know the Hummingbird kits themselves. We began by having students light up the LED lights. We continued with connecting a servo and making it move like a hand motion.
  5. Once students were familiar with the components they would be using, they were free to attach the components to their Explorer.
  6. After the Explorer was complete, students learned about the motion sensor and chose a distance threshold to activate their Explorer. Students also typed their speech into the CreateLab software to make the Explorer talk.
  7. Next, students created expressions to program their Explorer to light up, wave, and speak when an observer got near it.
  8. Finally, students used a gallery walk model to listen to their classmates’ Explorers as a review for their Social Studies test.

Additional Information:

We also prefaced this entire unit with the “Coding with Cups” activity from ThinkerSmith.


Honestly, the most trouble we had with this lesson was the timing. We never seemed to have enough time because the kids were so detail-oriented with their final projects. The students were overly excited to participate and cannot wait to do the activity again with another subject. We are hoping the timing will be a bit smoother now that the students have experience with the Hummingbird kits. I’ve never seen kids as excited about a Social Studies topic, so I would say this lesson is most definitely a success.



Exploring with Finch

Imagine that Finch is going on a trip. It is your job to program Finch to reach your assigned destination. Once you get there, give some facts about that place before moving on to the next stop!

You may choose to program Finch to move to your destination on its own (autonomously), or you can write a script that allows you to drive the Finch with the keyboard (remote control).

Teacher Note: You may choose to to place a large map on the floor, or have students make their own maps to explore!