Lesson 7: Comets

Comet ISON









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Little Robots Series 3 – The Waker Upper. Tiny oversleeps and doesn’t turn the day on until way past time, so Stretchy decides to make a waker-upper machine, with a little help from Noisy. It performs admirably but Stretchy has forgotten to include a switcher-offer switch. They take it to the Wasteland where, it is hoped, it will run down. But Noisy has other ideas and with Tiny’s help, turns it into a musical instrument.

Present Ideas for Young Inventors

One of our club parents has asked me if BeeBots would make a good Christmas present, and whether I have any other suggestions as well.

So I thought I’d turn it into a post!


BeeBotsYes, BeeBots make a great gift, but are particularly well-suited for group play or for setting challenging or creative activities. So perfect for getting down on the floor with your child to invent your own game. It’s possible to buy just one, and there are also some fun mats that are available (In the club we’ve been making our own, with a big clear sheet of PVC marked with a grid). Ideal for 3 – 6 year olds.


LEGO Mindstorms

I’m a huge LEGO Mindstorms fan, but they are indeed a bit pricey. If you’ve really got a robot nut in your house, then it is an amazing gift. The best bit is that you can programme it in Scratch. The new EV3 has it’s own icon-based software which is even easier to use. Really starts becoming accessible to kids around 7 years old or so.

Early MachinesThis  Early Machines Set on my wish list for the Club, if there are any generous  Santa’s Helpers out there 😉 Do check out all of the other LEGO Educational products, as there is quite a fantastic range. Ideal for 3 – 6 year olds.

Sifteo Cubes

SifteoSifteo Cubes are an award-winning  new interactive game system using digital tiles,  in the timeless play tradition of legos, building blocks, and domino tiles.

They can be tilted, flipped, shaken, and put side by side. Sifteo Cubes communicate wirelessly and respond to each other and your gestures. There is an ever expanding catalog of games to play, and an excellent Developer Platform if you feel inspired to create your own (more advanced programming skills required). All ages.

MaKey MaKey

MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It’s a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything inbetween:
The kit includes the MaKey MaKey board, Alligator Clips, and a USB Cable.

Alligator Clip two objects to the MaKey MaKey board. For example, you and an apple.When you touch the apple, you make a connection, and MaKey MaKey sends the computer a keyboard message. The computer just thinks MaKey MaKey is a regular keyboard (or mouse). Therefore it works with all programs and webpages, because all programs and webpages take keyboard and mouse input.

Ideal for 5 – 12 year olds.

Pico Boards

pbarrowsusbThe PicoBoard allows you to create interactions with various sensors. Using the Scratch programming language, you can easily create simple interactive programs based on the input from sensors. The PicoBoard incorporates a light sensor, sound sensor, a button and a slider, as well as 4 additional inputs that can sense electrical resistance via included cables.

Designed for educators and beginners, the PicoBoard is a good way to get into the very basics of programming and reading sensors.

SparkFun has a TON of ideas of things you can build, plus lots of other fun inventor’s kit.

I would totally do this with my  4-and-3-quarters year old, but otherwise I’d say 6 – 12.

Squishy Circuits

Ok, this one is a recipe, and not something you can buy off the shelf (well – you probably can somewhere, but WAY more fun to make it yourself. And economical). You will need to have some LEDs and batteries handy.

Squishy Circuits

“Making play-dough creatures is fun, but making them with light-up eyes and moving parts is even more enjoyable. We thought it would be better still if we could make the circuitry out of the dough itself!

Most play dough is already conductive, but we needed a way to insulate the conductive dough. We came up with a sugar-based dough that works well as an insulator. It’s pliable and resistant to blending with the conductive dough.

Rainy day and fidgety kids? Whip up both types of dough, gather some LEDs and batteries, and create your own menagerie of squishy circuit creations. Add a motor or two for sculptures with moving parts. Feeling adventurous? Play with the salt content of the recipes to vary their conductivity.”

Find out how to make your own Squishy Circuits on the MAKE website. All Ages.


Lesson 6: Robotic Fish

This week I unfortunately need to travel for business, but one of the teachers at the school will be kindly taking over for me and joining the other regular Club teacher. So this week my lesson plan notes are for them!

3:30 – 3:45 Snack & Chat

During our snack time at the start of club, we explain our activities for the day. Today we will be talking about fish. Has anyone here seen a fish? What do fish look like? Can anyone tell me how fish move?

Do you think that there might be any robot fish? How do you think they might need to move?

Let’s take a look at the pictures on this website of some Robot Fish that people have imagined and built. Some of these are just for fun, like a Robotic Fish made to look like a type that lived during the time of the dinosaurs. Or to be a bath tub toy. But some are designed to have a job to do.

Robotic Fish

Can you imagine what kind of jobs they might have? Exploring the deep ocean. Tracking how fish migrate, filming other fish to understand them better…

Let’s watch one, and see if it moves like a real fish:

3:45 – 3:55 Arts & Crafts

Today we are doing our Arts & Crafts together with the whole group, so that we draw and colour our own wonderful fish on the BeeBots squares. Please be sure to write your name on your fish drawing. When you are done, you can give your fish to the teacher, and go to the computers until it is your turn for a BeeBots session

3:55 – 4:20

This time we divide the kids into two groups, inviting 5 children at a time time to the BeeBots mat to do the BeeBot activity,  for just under 10 minutes each.

1. BeeBots – Swimming Fish

Our BeeBots activity is working together as a group to have one  BeeBot follow a path from fish to fish on the mat. The teacher will select 5 fish squares and call those children down to the carpet area, and will place the squares under the mat at random.

Starting the BeeBot at one far corner, the children will take turns directing the BeeBot to their fish – i.e. the child with the fish closest to the BeeBot on the corner, will direct the BeeBot to their fish, then the next closest fish will have the BeeBot directed to it by the child that drew it, and so on.

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2. Explore – Poisson Rouge

Today our free time on the computers is to explore the Red Fish aquarium – there are no right or wrong ways to play, and children can explore everything they want to.


4:20 – 4:30 Video

If there is time at the end, the children can watch a video.

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Animated deep sea adventure series. Captain Barnacles and his intrepid band of explorers roam the oceans in search of adventure and fun. The Octonauts help a young manta ray find the secret manta ray feeding grounds, but when they finally locate it, the Octonauts become caught in the middle of a dangerous feeding frenzy!


BeeBots Resources from Down Under

The Queensland Government’s Department of Education, Training and the Arts have developed a wonderful series of resources for using BeeBots in a Primary ICT setting.

I highly recommend you start with their introduction to using BeeBots in the Classroom “Making your Classroom Buzz: Ideas and Activities for the Early Phase”, developed by Kristine Kopelke.

Here are some of the ideas that they share:

Synchronised Buzzing

Bee-Bots love buzzing together. In this activity, students work collaboratively to develop a flight plan for their Bee-Bot. They may draw the path on paper, write down a sequence of instructions or use the Bee-Bot button sequence cards to map out what they want their Bee-Bots to do. Once the students have developed their flight plan, they can program their Bee-Bots and then press go at the same time to see some synchronised buzzing.

Bee-Bot Barrier Games

Barrier games are a great strategy to use to develop students oral language skills. For this activity, you will need two identical mats, a board or a divider and two Bee-Bots. To try this activity in your class, students place a Bee-Bot and a mat on each side of the divider. On one side of the divider a student or team of students decides the location on the mat where the Bee-Bot will be to start with. They then tell the other student or team on the other side of the divider. The student or team that is providing instructions, then programs their Bee-Bot and provides the other student or team with instructions so that they can move to the same spot. The goal is for each student or team to help their Bee-Bot make it to the same location on the mat. Once all instructions are given, students check if the locations match and if so win the game.

I think I can…. I think I can…

The Little Bee-Bot that could.

You may have noticed that every Bee-Bot has a tow bar on their back. You can attach string or rope to the tow bar in order to have the Bee-Bot tow other objects. In this activity, students can investigate the different loads that Bee-Bots can tow and how the weight of the loads can effect the speed of the Bee-Bot. Students can also try placing the Bee-Bot on surfaces placed at different angles to see if the Bee-Bot can carry the load up or down a slope.

Teachers may use the text ‘The Little Engine that Could’ as a stimulus for this activity. Students could then collaboratively develop a class big book of their own innovation on this text titled ‘The Little Bee-Bot that could’. Illustrations could include digital photographs of the students experimenting with different loads.

Groovy Bots

Turn up the music in your class and get your Bee-Bots and students moving. Challenge students to program the Bee-Bots to dance to the music. Invent some names for the dance steps they create. Students could also work collaboratively to make the Bee-Bots dance in sequence.

Lesson Five – Jack & Jill

3:30 – 3:40 Snack & Chat

Today the kids were really tired and extra hungry! I luckily brought a package of whole wheat crackers with me to share with them, and they were still begging for more at the end. (Note to parents- please stock your club-going children up with lots of filling snacks. They are starving after a day at school)

During our snack time we talked about our day, and I explained our activities for the day. I had this blog post up on the Whiteboard screen and asked them if they could see what the activity would be. We then talked about what a website is, and what the Internet is, in a really basic fashion.

3:40 – 3:55 / 3:55 – 4:10 / 4:10 – 4:20

Today the plan was to once again we divide the kids up into three groups of 5, 5 & 6. But because the kids were so quiet and tired (lots of colds and sore bellies reported to me), most of them were in the mood to just do some quiet colouring and playing on the computer. I had a really eager group of BeeBots explorers for the first group, but only two children wanted to have a go during the second round. So today was a very quiet and relaxed club. They all loved just sitting and watching the video at the end.

Today’s three activities were:

1. BeeBots – Jack & Jill

Our BeeBots activity is working together as a group to have a  BeeBot follow a path on the mat to the Nursery Rhyme Jack & Jill. I printed out a picture of Jack & Jill with a bucket, a picture of a well, and a big picture of a hill, which we placed under the BeeBots mat. We planned a route up the hill, and the kids had fun making the BeeBot go backwards to fall back down again.

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2. Explore – Little Robots Games

Today our free time on the computer is exploring the Little Robots Games on Ceebeebies.

3. Arts & Crafts – Jack & Jill Book

Today our Arts & Crafts activity is to colour in our own Itsy Bitsy Jack & Jill book, with a writing activity on each page as well.

4:20 – 4:30 Video

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Little Robots: Series 4: Repeat After Me

Stripy knows he’s holding Tiny and the others up when they are busy building, so he decides to adjust his circuits to make himself go faster. The others are very surprised when he strides past, very fast – and then again and again. Tiny realises Stripy has managed to put himself into repeater mode and confusion mounts. Tiny engineers a solution and the Little Robots are happy to have the Stripy they know and love restored to them.

Lesson Four: Taking care of our Bees

3:30 – 3:40 Snack & Chat

We started the club with time for a snack, and a little chat about our day.

We hadn’t seen each other for a couple of weeks, so I  re-introduced the BeeBots, talked about how we always handle them carefully and wait for our turn. I  asked the children, what can we do to take good care of these Bees?

  • hold them with two hands
  • don’t let them bump each other
  • don’t drop them
  • wait our turn, don’t grab them away from another person
  • put them back in their docking station when we are done

3:40 – 3:50 Videos

BBC Videos - The Humble Bumble BeeWe then talked about: How do real bees take care of themselves? How do they live? What do they eat?

We watched a short video from  BBC Nature about Bumble Bees and how they pollinate Tomato Plants.


I had planned to show the kids a video of a robot bee that has been designed by a University  – it is the smallest robot ever! But we ended up talking so long that I just dove into the activities at this point.

3:50 – 4:00 Art & Crafts

Draw your own flower for our BeeBots to explore

Today we will be giving our BeeBots a chance to explore some flowers, while practicing our BeeBots skills. But first we need some flowers to put under our brand new BeeBots Mat!

Everyone will have a few minutes to draw and colour some beautiful flowers for me. Those who are done the quickest can start cutting them out, and bring them down to the Mat for our first group activity.

4:00 – 4:10 / 4:10 – 4:20

Today we are dividing ourselves into two groups, and these are the two activities we will be rotating between:

1. Explore Bees on the Computer

Bees and Honey Game

Each child will have some free time on the computers to play the Bees & Honey Game on TVO Kids (TV Ontario – a Canadian public service television station)


(They got through this game very quickly, so needed to be steered back to the TVO Kids dashboard where they could explore more games)

2. BeeBots Flower Path

The other group will sit in a circle around our BeeBots Mat, and each child will place their flower under one of the squares. Together we will plan what path our BeeBot needs to take to reach each of the flowers in turn. Each child will get the chance to plan out the path the BeeBot will take to reach their flower.

(This activity was a big hit, and several of the children amazed me by planning out their BeeBots route in advance, and programming it correctly in one go!)

4:20 – 4:30 Free Time

The children have free time to either play more on the computers, or to play on the Mat with the BeeBots. (We actually ended up using up all of the time with the activities, and had to wrap up quickly at the end – the kids were full of beans today, and quite a handful! For future reference, I think it works better to have them split across three activities instead of just two, but one of the activities has to be artsy where they can be left on their own as we only have two teachers.)


How to control the BeeBot

Simon Haughton has a very good blog post on his excellent ICT Teaching resources website about introducing the BeeBot to primary aged children, which I’m re-posting here:

Learning to Control the Bee-Bot

by Simon Haughton

The Bee-Bot has become a staple ingredient of the early years ICT curriculum in the last few years. Everyone praises the device for being extremely child-friendly and accessible – a perfect programmable toy that is great for teaching basic control skills.

Whilst plenty of time should be given to allow for independent play with and exploration of the Bee-Bot in a reception classroom, I do like to spend a few sessions with children to ensure that they are all specifically taught: how to handle it safely, how enter sequences of commands accurately into it and how to carefully predict its movements (i.e. where they expect it to move to) – young children in particular need to be given some guidance before being expected to use ICT equipment effectively on their own.

I always find that children are fascinated when they see the Bee-Bot start moving on its own, so getting children motivated and enthusiastic about learning to use the device isn’t hard. As a general skills list, during the four focused activity sessions I spend with reception working on the Bee-Bot I cover (in order):

  • the fact that it looks like a bee and is also like a robot (hence the name);
  • the fact that it is battery powered and must be programmed to move;
  • how to enter a sequence of just forward commands which can be run/executed by pressing the ‘go’ button to make the Bee-Bot move along a mat;
  • how to use the ‘clear’ button to delete a set of commands and so ‘tell the Bee-Bot it’s a new child’s go’;
  • how to press the turn (left/right) and back arrows to make the Bee-Bot move in different directions;
  • how to combine sequences of commands to make the Bee-Bot travel to different destinations along ‘L’-shaped routes;
  • how to make the Bee-Bot travel in unusual paths along a mat to reach places in a sequence/avoid obstacles (usually done by telling a journey story linked with traditional story characters/locations);
  • how to press the ‘pause’ button to make the Bee-Bot temporarily stop at a place on a mat before continuing on its journey.

Giving children plenty of time to practice these skills (especially when it comes to making the Bee-Bot move in two or more directions in one set of commands) is essential I think and I’ve always found that children benefit from the extra time I give them to consolidate their programming capabilities.

I absolutely love teaching children how to properly work with the Bee-Bot and they too are always eager to learn how to operate it as well. ICT should never just be about sitting at a computer desk!