Of course they can! when they have the engaging curriculum provided by the nonprofit Code.org and a confident teacher who encourages them.
What’s more, they can program robots to move through a maze, coding the rolling Sphero SPRK+ used in our BOTS program for the multiple dimensions of speed, duration (distance), and direction, including turns, forward and backwards movement. Not bad for a kid that’s also learning how to read.
USC VAST Employee, Hannah, teaches 6-year-olds coding using Spheros
BOTS stands for Building Opportunities with Teachers in Schools, the program run out of USC Viterbi Adopt-a-Teacher, Adopt-a-Student (VAST) office. Since last summer, nine teachers at three elementary schools in Boyle Heights have been working with USC VAST staff and students to learn how to teach computational thinking skills to their first- and second-grade students by transferring fundamental Computer Science skills from abstract on-screen computing to tangible physical computing in the form of robots. What we’ve seen so far with the robots is that these six- and seven-year-olds are learning angles two-three years before their grade-level expectations, and they can already see the patterns that become the basis for the Computer Science concept of loops, i.e., more efficient coding.
USC student worker with the School teacher at the PD5 event
There is no longer any question that even very young children are capable of STEM modes of inquiry, reasoning, and persistence; they enjoy and benefit throughout advancing school years from hands-on work with coding, robotics, and computer science. By the time today’s 1st graders complete high school in 2029, digital fluency will require sophisticated computational thinking and thorough understanding of the role of computers and artificial intelligence in our society. Robotics is not a game but a tangible, authentic and proven age-appropriate way to launch 6-8-year-old children toward lifelong digital agency.
Students enjoying coding using Spheros
USC student worker, Yuka, with the School teacher
USC student worker with the School teacher at the school visit.