Coding and Storytelling Collide at Westwind Elementary

Third graders, Kaeden Axtell and Avery Caballero, create stories using Spheros that are controlled by coding on iPads.

In a world full of imagination, third grade students Kaeden Axtell and Avery Caballero at Westwind Elementary, are creating live stories while applying their coding skills using Spheros, the world’s first app-enabled robotic ball that allows students to learn, play and explore.

Axtell and Caballero began coding when they would come to the library after their work was completed.

“Once they finish their work, they come down to the library and work on their coding skills,” said Angela Howard, Westwind’s media specialist. “We’ll have students work on coding with computer programs, the BB-8 and other items, but this year we’ve added the Spheros, which added a whole new tangible experience for our students.”

Howard wanted to take students’ coding skills one step further to help them apply coding in other content areas, one of which was English language arts.

“They started with writing together as a team,” Howard said. “Kaeden and Avery worked together to come up with the characters and story plot, and then they wrote out the lines of each character.”

Next came the set design.

“After they had their story, they used blocks on a long sheet of paper to set the scene,” Howard said. “But what’s tricky about it is that it all has to be precise for the Sphero to roll through.”

The story plot includes two friends trying to find one of the friend’s brothers in the kingdom.

As they come to a castle, the king throws one of them in the dungeon, leaving the other friend all by their lonesome.

One locked away and one still searching, the two friends are reunited again and escape the king as they run rapidly through the forest.

“I love playing with the Spheros,” Axtell said. “This is my second year coding and it’s so fun to make them move and speak. My favorite part is making them spin around like their dancing.”

Using their iPads, students can make the Spheros roll around in all different directions, speeds and lengths of time. They can also make them change their colors, add sound effects, type out lines for them to say, and they can even roll around in the water.

“Changing the lights on the Spheros is my favorite part,” Caballero said. “It’s fun to have them just roll around here in the library while we play with them.”

After Axtell and Caballero play through their story, they began playing hide and go seek with their Spheros throughout the library.

“It is so much fun to see our students learning coding skills while also having fun,” Howard said. “Not only are they learning coding, but they also are learning problem solving skills, teamwork, math and science, while also using their imaginations to create codes and commands for the Spheros to do.”

This is the first year Howard has incorporated the Spheros into the coding curriculum for the school.

“One of these days coding will be a basic skill students will have before they enter the work force, if not already,” Howard said. “There currently are entry-level coding jobs today, so if we can help our students become successful starting out this young, then I’m glad we’re doing it while also having fun.”