The international STEAM collaboration will show students in both countries that ‘you can be anything you want to be in this world’
KinderLab Robotics today announced that it has donated four KIBO robot kits to La Puerta Abierta, a school in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala. Part of a partnership with Sewickley Academy, near Pittsburgh, PA, this donation will foster cross-cultural collaboration between the schools. Sewickley’s 5th-graders, who have experience teaching younger students about robotics through the school’s Big Buddies program, will offer guidance to La Puerta Abierta’s 1st-graders as they work on fun, hands-on programming challenges.
La Puerta Abierta, which relies heavily on volunteers and donations, was co-founded by Amanda Flayer, who was a Peace Corps volunteer with Michelle Bonham, a Lower School Spanish teacher at Sewickley Academy. The two schools have previously collaborated by having their 5th-graders create a bilingual book together. When La Puerta Abierta secured mathematics professor and data analyst Gaspar Yataz Pop as a volunteer to teach robotics using KIBO, the idea for the STEAM-powered collaboration between the schools’ students was born.
“We look forward to giving our elementary school students the opportunity to engage with another culture,” said Beau Blaser, director of technology at Sewickley Academy. “Through coding and collaboration, they’ll be learning to connect ideas and concepts together from a great distance. That can lead to an appreciation of the different cultures, but also a realization that there’s a lot of commonality across the human experience. What better way to do that than with some of our youngest learners? They’ll see that anybody can become an engineer or express their artistic ability—you can be anything you want to be in this world, whether you’re from Guatemala or Sewickley, Pennsylvania.”
Because Guatemala has sporadic wireless access, Sewickley Academy chose the screen-free KIBO as the hands-on coding robot to share with La Puerta Abierta’s young students. Sewickley Academy’s computer science teacher Julia Tebbets and Bonham will offer Pop professional development on KIBO via Zoom or Google Meet. Students in Sewickley and Santiago Atitlán will then collaborate on programming projects beginning in early 2023. According to Tebbets, one initial idea is for students to program their KIBOs to do dances that reflect each culture.
“We are delighted to support this cross-cultural collaboration,” said Mitch Rosenberg, CEO of KinderLab Robotics Inc. “As KinderLab co-founder Marina Bers shows in her book Beyond Coding: How Children Learn Values Through Programming, KIBO’s screen-free, block-based programming system connects students who speak different languages and come from different cultures. Working together to bring their robots to life in fun STEAM projects will show the students in America and Guatemala how the power of collaboration—like the power of STEAM thinking—transcends all borders.