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Kalamazoo College, Robot Bees, and Computer Programming

Associate Professor of Biology Binney Girdler at a recent K commencement ceremony

Associate Professor of Biology Binney Girdler knows about bees and Beebots. She teamed up with Woodward Elementary School first grade teacher Jenn Rice and won an “Inspired Learning Grant” through the Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo. The grant will help pilot a new program at Woodward: little bee shaped robots called “BeeBots” that help to teach the basic skills of computer programming. The little robots will help student learn about spatial awareness, sequencing, counting and more.

Exposure to programming at this age (first graders!) will make technology seem more accessible and less magical. Eventually, the program may help students take fuller advantage of the Kalamazoo Promise (which covers college tuition for Kalamazoo Public School students). Early exposure to computer programming and related educational schools also may help students one day secure employment in high technology jobs.

Girdler certainly is looking towards the future, “If the BeeBots program at Woodward gets a lot of buzz, we would like to apply for more funding to follow a cohort of these students through their Kalamazoo Public School careers. We’d like to make available in their middle schools and high schools even more sophisticated programming tools and environments, and foster a peer-mentoring program that extends all the way to college.”

The two teachers’ winning proposal included a delightful video about the program’s potential. Click the VIEW ENTRIES button to see the video. Text by Mallory Zink. Photo by Keith Mumma.