Coding and robotics course takes off in Prince Albert Catholic School Division

Prince Albert Catholic School Division Photo Teachers took part in a Robotics instruction course last week.

Learning about logical thinking is one of the key parts of a new Coding and Robotics program that is being offered in the Prince Albert Catholic School Division this year.

The division has partnered with SaskCode to offer Coding and Robotics in all schools for Grade 5 students as well as provide option for high school students.

IT manager Sean Kenny said teachers and students are all looking forward to this new option.

“It’s quite exciting this coding and robotics, it’s right up (the students’) alley because we bring in robots to a classroom. Right away, it’s hands on,” Kenny said,

“The kids are excited because it’s a little different from the traditional learning environment,” he added.

Kenny said the course gets students learning and having fun in an engaging environment.

“If course that’s where kids ideally love to learn by doing, by exploring, by having fun at the same time,” he said. “As some kids would say, we didn’t even know we were learning. We were just having fun and of course that’s super awesome for teachers because not only are they engaging their kids but it’s delivering learning for them in the various subject areas.

“Everyone is involved and everyone is interacting with the robots. It’s kind of a win win all around.”

Kenny said that the idea has been under development for three years but was put on the backburner because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Coming out of the pandemic it just gave us as a school division a chance to revisit this,” He said. “(It’s) all the more relevant, based on the changed nature of education delivery over the last couple of years. To be able to come back now and engage in such fun activities coming out of the pandemic, it just drives up the learning and the engagement and the fun all the more after the two years that we have all gone through.”

Students will participate in hands-on robotic activities aligned with Saskatchewan curriculum in Arts Education, English Language Arts, Math, Practical and Applied Arts, and Science. To support student learning, teachers will participate in professional learning opportunities provided by SaskCode throughout the 2022-23 school year. In a release the division said that they look forward to seeing the growth and excitement as our students learn new skills and increase their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) knowledge.

The program focuses on improving logical and sequential thinking by helping students solve problems by breaking them down into simple steps.

Kenny said this type of thinking can be transferred into other areas such as problem solving. The example he gave was trying to teach the robot to go through a maze and figuring out which steps have to be gone through to accomplish that goal.

“They end up breaking down a big picture project into a little step by step type approach involving logical thinking and sequential thinking and getting to the end result of their goal and I have to say having a lot of fun in the process,” Kenny said.

SaskCode is a group of teachers who designed the program for teachers. The provincial group provides support for teachers, who then apply their lessons learned in the classroom. Kenny was one of two people who did the legwork to kickstart the program in the Catholic Division.

“All of the legwork, all of the supporting network has been done behind the scenes by teachers in Saskatchewan for teachers in Saskatchewan to deliver to their students,” he said.

“It’s a very structured environment that they have set up provincially to assist the kids in this learning, so there have been a lot of time and a lot of effort developing (the program) behind the scenes.

“They do have some sponsors and funding like SaskTel and Nutrien and other national groups, so it’s a well-supported, well-funded approach to learning.”

Parents or students who would like more information about the robotics and coding program are invited to contact the Catholic school in their communities.

-With files from Jason Kerr, Prince Albert Daily Herald