In the world of education, every teacher aspires to make a lasting impact on their students’ lives. Meet Mark Keever, an educator with a decade of experience, predominantly teaching elementary math and science. However, this year marked a significant shift in his career, as he ventured into the dynamic realm of middle school STEM and coding education. Like many educators, Mike faced the challenge of finding engaging, student-led curriculum to fit his needs. The following interview showcases how our Ultimate 2.0 curriculum helped Mike in streamlining his teaching approach, paving the way for remarkable results.
Q: Can you tell me about yourself and your background in education?
A: “I have been teaching for 10 years. I taught elementary for 9 of those. Mostly math and science. I just got my master’s and am hoping to expand my education further. This is my first year in middle school teaching STEM and coding. I have a background in 3D printing. This is my first year having a curriculum like this where it is student led. Most of what I did was following a specific curriculum. With this one I’m more free to make changes and adjustments where needed which is nice. I also coach. I try to be involved in community as much as possible.”
Q: What is the grade level of the students engaging with the Ultimate Robot 2.0 curriculum?
A: “Right now, 7th and 8th grade for one. They were my Fab Lab class. They were laser printing and constructing things. They want more than just art and music. I thought this would be great for them. I have an 8th grade STEM class.”
Q: How are students responding to the curriculum?
A: “They are really enjoying it. There is so more much then just robots. They are able to find out their own solutions for pretty much everything. Instead of me helping, another kid will help them. I give them the objective and they figure it out on their own. It has been wonderful.”
Q: Would you say the curriculum encourages students to use their own reasoning and thinking to find solutions to real-world problems? How?
A: “Absolutely. 100%. Everything was standards based. This is giving excitement and you can see them going into the future with hope and a skill they will use. Especially the coding. The world building and being able to move things autonomously is getting them ready for jobs and they don’t even know it. They are learning stuff that when they get a job interview, they can say they know how to do it. Seeing that connection is really nice as a teacher. It rejuvenates excitement about teaching. This curriculum allows you to see that real world application.”
Q: What are some of the concepts that you see students learning from the Ultimate Robot 2.0 curriculum?
A: “We are doing all kinds of math, how to find speed, we are measuring things. We are using real tools for equations. They are learning how to code. We are even incorporating 3D printing by building mountains and rocks for their maps. Mapping and graphing for sure. That is a big one. Right now, that is what I’ve seen. We haven’t gotten into the sensors yet. Math and science for sure. We’re even do a bit of writing. It hits every aspect.”
Q: How would you say the curriculum is impacting student confidence in STEM?
A: “Quite a bit actually. They seem to want to complete these objectives more than just giving them a problem. The hands-on aspect gives kids that are not the best in the classroom the chance to shine. They are definitely excelling.”
Q: Are students having fun with the curriculum?
A: “Yeah. They weren’t sure what we were getting into. Once built, they were racing, asking what else we can build, trying to jump to the end of the unit before we got there. They want to do more with them.”
Q: What activities are students finding the most engaging? Why do you think that is?
A: “They are really engaged with building. They wanted that robot built. I think a lot of it is the hands-on. Kids want to play with things. If you give them tools and screws and say go play, they perk up and get excited.”
Q: How has the curriculum made a difference in overall student learning?
A: “I’m definitely supporting core subjects. We are finding distance and time and using speed to actually code the robot. They can put what they learn in class into real world situations. Today we were doing maps built out of cardboard. They have to figure out grids. Within 10 minutes they figured it out and shared with other groups. A lot of peers are collaborating with each other which they enjoy.”
Q: How would you say using technology has supported student learning?
A: “The good thing about it is that you don’t need WIFI. We didn’t have WIFI all day, and that didn’t affect things at all. Kids with technology are picking it up super-fast. Some that have never coded before, in 10 minutes their robot is halfway down the maze. They pick it up quick. The technology is not a problem, if anything, they are ready to embrace it.”
Q: Why do you think it is important to support STEM education in schools?
A: “Because of the way things are going right now we are going to need a lot of robots in society to help the world turn. Tech is kind of our savior with global warming, jobs, and the economy. It won’t be people flipping hamburgers, it will be robots. These kids need to know how to run them. Those are the jobs that will be available in 20 years. Not pushing the lawn mower but coding the lawn mower. That’s a real-life situation we are looking at.”
Q: Has the Ultimate Robot 2.0 curriculum met your expectations? How?
A: “Oh yeah, it definitely has and more. I was nervous at first not knowing what I was getting into. I was excited about robots for hands-on experience. I was not expecting the other aspects – mapping, sensors, all of that. That brought it up to a whole other level. It is great. I just jumped in. Jump in as a class and it works out. This student led curriculum gets them ready for future jobs.”
Q: What has been the most useful aspect of the Ultimate Robot 2.0 curriculum?
A: “The PowerPoints are awesome. As a teacher having that to give to the students keeps you in line with what you need to do. Having the rubrics is huge. Having all the standards. Those three things are definitely helpful for a teacher.”
Q: Would you recommend this curriculum to other educators? Why?
A: “Yeah, absolutely. This is going to go maybe half a year of pure STEM that I don’t have to plan for. I don’t have to create it. This is my first year as a STEM teacher. This lifted my spirits. I don’t have to worry. Having it all ready for the teacher is huge for planning and your administration wants you to support core subject and that is what this is doing. It is all aligned with the standards. I would definitely recommend it. It makes you enjoy teaching. Watching students lead themselves and accomplish things themselves. I’m excited for the future. These kids can do it. They can put a rocket on the moon if they want to. I would recommend it to other STEM teachers.”
STEM education encourages the next generation of engineers, technologists, scientists, and artists. Our team of STEM experts are here to support you in implementing meaningful K-12 learning experiences that empower students and educators. Request more information today about how you can incorporate STEM learning at your school and increase student achievement.