When most people hear about 4-H, they don’t automatically associate 4-H with coding and technology. Additionally, an abundance of screen time for youth is often discouraged. However, the educational value that coding can facilitate when it comes to life skill development must not be overlooked. I am here to advocate that coding and technology programs can be a great addition to our 4-H programs to help facilitate life skills within our Targeting Life Skills Model.
So, why the Sphero Bolts?
As someone who doesn’t have a formal computer science background and was also intimidated by the idea of coding, I wanted to find something that would peak the interest of our 4-Hers, which was also reasonable for me to understand and teach. In my needs assessment, both parents and youth indicated a high interest in learning about coding and technology, but stated there were not many opportunities to learn outside of school. Multiple coding platforms and resources exist to teach youth these vital skills. Based on feedback from Julia Kelly, a fellow 4-H agent, and some additional research, I opted to utilize the Sphero Bolt robots. If you are considering adding coding and technology to your 4-H or youth program, here are some reasons why Sphero might be a great fit for your program:
- One of Sphero’s core values is that play is a powerful teacher. I witnessed this firsthand when the kids shared that driving the Bolts was like playing Mario Cart. In fact, many of the kids were drawn to the club and the program because it looked like (and it is) fun!
- Sphero already has 1,000 hours of activities built into the SpheroEdu App. The app contains standards-align curriculum. Additionally, the app contains curriculum that uses Sphero robots to enhance science, math, social studies, arts, and English language arts lesson plans. I am most excited to be able to utilize Sphero Bolts to enhance some in-class science lessons around forces and motions and life sciences.
- The lesson plans are easy to teach and are scalable to all ages. My club members were predominantly ages 8-14. Sphero has both curriculum and robots that are geared toward youth of all ages.
- The training and support from Sphero is there! Thanks to generous grants from the Clay Electric Foundation, Inc. and the McDonald’s Golden Grants Program, we were able to fund the initial Sphero Bolt Robots and iPads used in the program. I also purchased the Sphero Fundamentals Self-Guided Course to teach me how to work the Sphero Bolts and the SpheroEdu App. Whenever a question about the Sphero Bolt arose during our club sessions that I couldn’t answer, I would reach out to the Sphero team and would receive a prompt reply.
In our roll-out of the Sphero program, we’ve been able to reach 39 youth so far. We are excited to expand our offering of the program and help more youth code essential life skills.