Micro:bits in Year 6

They say that you only really know whether you understand a subject if you can teach it to someone else. Well, that’s what happened during the afternoon of Monday 16th January, when the Year 5 class shared their BBC micro:bit expertise with the Year 6 class.

Mr Scott, Year 5 teacher and IT co-ordinator, was very pleased with the outcome:

The Year 5 children were excellent mentors, coaching older children on something new. They were able to implement one of the Engineering Habits of Mind – Systems Thinking – in order to explain how the software works.

The pairs then progressed to more varied and complicated lessons using the micro:bit and the Inventor’s Kit equipment. It was very interesting to see how Year 6 adapted to being taught by younger children and how they advanced as learners – operating the Breadboard.

This example of mentors helping others was a very worthwhile experience for the children involved and the teachers. It showed how mature and responsible the children can be when faced with a challenge.”

The Year 5 children were equally enthusiastic:

“It was very interesting to see how the Year 6s reacted to the micro:bit. They seemed to be very intrigued to learn about it. We had a go at different activities from the booklet that comes with the Inventor’s Kit, including a fan, a buzzer and a magic 8 ball. We think that the Year 6 class benefited from this help. You could tell because of how quickly they were able to use the product independently, once we had shown them the basics. We enjoyed being teachers and felt that it helped with our own understanding. Next time, we think we need to be more patient. We are hoping to go back in a few weeks to check understanding.”

By Jack, Finn, Megan, Claris & Rohan (Year 5)

We are waiting to hear from some Year 6 children . . .

The BBC micro:bit is a hand held, fully programmable computer, which was originally given free to all Year 7 children. It has many features including 25 red LED lights that can flash messages. When the product became generally available in 2016, we bought 15 Inventors Kits for our Year 5 class. Having spent the previous year using Codebugs in Year 4, the children were well placed to transfer their knowledge to the micro:bit. After learning the basics, they have recently being designing a trap to capture a Yeti – linking engineering to their class book: The Abominables.

For more information about the BBC micro:bit visit: http://microbit.org/about/

Sam Gratton, a Year 6 pupil, had this to say . . .

“The Year 5s were good at teaching us about the micro:bits; they really helped us all to move our learning on. I am now more confident with programming a micro:bit and can now code by myself. I can even make a fan spin round.

If you don’t know what micro:bits are, they are pocket-sized programmable computers. They can copy code onto a chip, which allows you to transport it on to another laptop. It’s also capable of answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions.”



Water Powered Rocket Cars

Just before we broke up for Christmas, Mr Randall and I held two workshops with the Year 3 & 4 classes to try and build some water-powered pop bottle cars. Letting more than 60, 7-9 year olds, loose with saws, glue guns and drills, was quite a daunting prospect, but the children were very keen and we had a reasonable amount of adult help. What could possibly go wrong?

I love this idea, as the initial inspiration came from Ellie Jepson, a pupil in my class. She had spent the weekend working on a car with her dad and brought it into show us the following Monday. Not only that, but she then demonstrated her designs to all the KS2 classes – very confidently and articulately – clearly demonstrating that our Think Like An Engineer project is having an impact on learning. Not only are parents getting involved, but children are taking more responsibility for their own learning – fantastic.

To start Ellie’s water-rocket car project off, we set a piece of homework, which tasked the Year 3&4 children with producing some designs. They had to think about what kind of wheels they might use; how they were going to attach them to each other and the body of the car, and what they could do to make sure that it travelled as far and as fast as possible.

Some excellent ideas were produced and a couple of weeks later, we set about making some chassis to accommodate our pop bottles. It was fantastic just watching the engagement of the children and how on-task they were.

This was the second session we had held with two classes. The first had been an afternoon of learning basic skills, such as sketching, marking and cutting, joining materials and strengthening and reinforcing. This set of activities was taken from the James Dyson Ideas Box – a free kit for schools, which introduces primary children to the design process, using a Dyson Air MultiplierTM fan as a case study.

It was certainly a worthwhile exercise, with the benefits clearly visible in our chassis making session. Children were quite happily building, testing, deconstructing and improving their designs. All we needed now was a simple mechanism to reliably release them.

I found this clever device online at http://waterockets.com/

It consists of a launch-nozzle-single-stagelength of plastic hose, one end of which goes into a bicycle pump and the other end in a hole in the rocket’s bottle cap.

As you pump, the balloon-type end in the cap expands, holding the bottle in situ. As the pressure gets greater the balloon starts to gently slip out, eventually releasing the bottle, which then shoots off at great speed.

As a launching device, it worked extremely well; however, unfortunately, our cars were not quite strong enough to survive their journey!

It proved to be an excellent learning curve for the children. It was soon very clear that we needed to make our chassis much stronger; attach the bottle more securely and choose sturdier wheels . Moving in a straight line definitely proved quite difficult; although we did have some guide rods that we could have used.

Next we are thinking of adding a motor to our chassis, which would definitely be more controllable! Some children have already had a go.