Situated in circles around three tables in the Projects Pavilion were small cardboard boxes with front-facing viewing windows, each showing carefully arranged mechanical and decorative elements.
Collectively, the boxes made up the pieces of a collaborative science-based storytelling project
that seventh-grade students executed as part of a hands-on unit that exposed them to robotics through science and tech integration.
“Each box is considered one page of the story,” Middle School Technology Coordinator Dori Friedman says. “As you walk around the machines counter-clockwise, you can read and really interact with the whole story. There’s awesome student artwork and craftsmanship in the final result.”
This was the first year of robotics integration in seventh-grade science, and it was a resounding success.
The “Robotic Storytelling Machine: Science Edition” project was inspired by the work of local artist Molly Allis, whose storytelling machine was on display at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica. Allis visited Crossroads and spoke to each participating class to help launch the unit, which Dori and science teacher Leanne DeCraene oversaw.
After learning about different relationships in ecological communities, such as predation, parasitism and mutualism, the students worked together in brainstorming sessions to write sentences to demonstrate their understanding of the science concepts. Then came the design portion: Students created interactive boxes that feature sensors and robotic parts to control different outputs.
“My favorite part was the programming because I got to experiment with what worked and what didn’t,” seventh-grader Hudson Aibel says. “I learned how to program and how to troubleshoot. If something didn’t work, I had to figure out what was wrong and fix it.”
In addition to science and robotics, the project promoted design thinking, collaboration and creativity. Students had the opportunity to put their imaginations to work.
“I really liked building with reusable materials,” seventh-grader Sofia Trejo says. “We just used cardboard and other fun items like little green cotton balls to make it look like algae. That was really cool.”