Kailua Elementary is a Title I school that serves 350 diverse students in grades PreK-6. The school’s 1:1 program provides laptops for students in grades 3-6 and tablets for first and second graders. As part of the school’s focus on computational thinking and problem solving, robotics is a core part of the curriculum in grades 1-6.
“The makerspace is where things come alive,” says technology coordinator Greg Kent, who helps teachers plan and implement lessons with beginner CAD software, 3D printers, laser cutters, and other digital tools. Third graders learn about environmental changes by building robotic floodgates and then solving problems (how does a boat get through?) by making modifications (adding a motion sensor). Fourth-grade social studies students demonstrate what they’ve learned about early Hawaiians’ natural resource management by building interactive models of the island, complete with digital audio.
The school’s award-winning robotics team has even come up with a way to cool their classrooms without air conditioning. Their proposal for a solar-powered hydroponically grown vertical garden with an evaporative cooling system has attracted interest from researchers at a local university – as well as the state department of education.
“It sounds counterintuitive, but digital tools give students more opportunities to connect and collaborate,” says Kent. “They have more immediate access to resources, so they can spend more time doing meaningful activities.”