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Unplugged Summer Coding Activities for Kids

Summer is a time for fun and relaxation, a time to explore new things, or delve deeper into existing passions. For many children, this is the time to join a summer camp or other fun activities with their classmates. 

If you are a teacher looking for new exciting activities to introduce during the summer, look no further! This is where your coding journey begins. 

Coding Activity: Being a Robot

“Being a Robot” is a fun, interactive activity designed to help children understand the fundamental concepts of programming and algorithmic thinking. It’s a straightforward exercise that requires no special equipment, making it accessible for almost any learning environment. Here’s how it works:

Separate the kids in pairs. One person takes on the role of the ‘robot’, while the other is the ‘programmer’. The ‘programmer’ must guide the ‘robot’ through a series of tasks or to reach a specific goal, such as navigating a simple maze or moving from one point to another. However, the ‘robot’ can only follow the instructions given by the ‘programmer’ and cannot make decisions independently.

The ‘programmer’ has to break down the tasks into a series of precise and clear instructions. For example, they might say, “Take three steps forward,” or “Turn right 90 degrees.” The ‘robot’ must follow these instructions exactly, demonstrating the fundamental concept in programming that a machine will only do exactly what it’s told to do.

Learning Objectives

“Being a Robot” helps children understand several key principles of programming and computational thinking:

  1. Sequential Instructions: Just like a line of code, the ‘robot’ must follow the instructions in the order they are given. This helps children understand the importance of sequence in programming.
  2. Precision: The ‘robot’ only does what it is told, nothing more, nothing less. This demonstrates the importance of giving precise instructions in programming.
  3. Debugging: If the ‘robot’ doesn’t end up where it’s supposed to or completes the task incorrectly, the ‘programmer’ must figure out what went wrong with their instructions. This is a tangible way to introduce the concept of debugging.
  4. Algorithmic Thinking: By planning the ‘robot’s’ actions in advance, children engage in algorithmic thinking, or determining the steps needed to solve a problem.

Coding Activity: The “If/Then” Backyard Game

The “If/Then” Backyard Game is a great activity for children that introduces the basics of conditional statements – a fundamental concept in programming. The game requires minimal equipment, can be played indoors or outdoors, and can accommodate multiple participants. Here’s how it works:

For this game, you’ll need a group of at least two people, but it’s more fun with more participants. One person is chosen as the ‘programmer’. The programmer’s job is to establish a set of “If/Then” statements. These are instructions that the other participants (the ‘computers’) will follow. For instance, the programmer might say, “If I clap my hands, then you jump” or “If I stomp my foot, then you turn around.”

Learning Objectives

This game helps children understand the concept of conditional statements in programming, which are commands that execute only when specific conditions are met.

  1. Conditional Logic: The basic “If/Then” statements represent conditional logic, a key concept in programming. The ‘If’ part is the condition, and the ‘Then’ part is the action that follows if the condition is met.
  2. Listening and Observation Skills: The game enhances children’s listening and observation skills as they must pay close attention to the programmer’s commands and react appropriately.
  3. Creativity and Quick Thinking: The programmer needs to be creative and quick in coming up with interesting and challenging “If/Then” commands. On the other hand, the ‘computers’ need to think fast to respond correctly.
  4. Fun and Exercise: Besides being educational, the “If/Then” Backyard Game is also a great way to keep children active and engaged, especially if you’re playing outdoors.

Coding with a Robot

Introducing educational coding robots, like KUBO, is revolutionizing how we approach coding education. KUBO is a screen-free robot designed to introduce children as young as four years old to the fundamental principles of coding and programming. It uses a unique TagTile® programming language that transforms abstract coding concepts into physical and visual experiences.

If you’re just starting your summer coding journey with KUBO, begin with the basics. Assemble the robot and introduce yourself and your students to the TagTile® system. Learn how to give KUBO simple instructions like move forward, turn right, or turn left, using the distinct tiles. Make it an adventure by setting up mini-challenges, using the KUBO cross-curriculum activities or creating your own maps in the KUBO Portal

Once you are familiar with the basic concepts, push the limits with more advanced challenges. Try introducing loops, or repetitive sequences, and see how these can make code more efficient. 

Coding and Storytelling

Summer coding activities with KUBO can also incorporate storytelling. Invent a story and use KUBO to act it out. This method encourages creativity, as well as logical thinking, as students must determine how to code KUBO to fulfil its role in the narrative. For instance, in the cross-curriculum activity Solar Systems, KUBO is an astronaut who visits new planets. Other cross-curriculum activities include a monster hunt, planting a garden, baking a cake, scoring a touchdown and much more. 

Coding and Collaboration

KUBO is also an excellent tool for promoting teamwork. Divide your students into pairs and encourage students to work together to create a program for KUBO to complete a mission. Students can learn the importance of collaboration and division of tasks in problem-solving – skills highly valuable in real-world programming environments.

Coding and Experimentation

Encourage free exploration and experimentation with KUBO. Let students experiment with different tiles and see what happens when they modify or rearrange them. This encourages a spirit of curiosity, an essential trait for budding coders. They can learn the concept of debugging – finding and fixing errors in the code – in a tangible, interactive way.

In conclusion, KUBO can make coding a lively, captivating summer activity. With its unique hands-on approach, it helps learners grasp abstract coding concepts more intuitively. Its focus on problem-solving, storytelling, and teamwork makes learning not just educational, but fun and meaningful.

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