Belhaven Hill School

A Boarding & Day School for Boys and Girls aged 6-13

Computing and Robotics? Start 'em young is Belhaven's Aim

Why Computing and Robotics Should Be Embedded in A Prep School's Curriculum

Why Computing and Robotics Should Be Embedded in A Prep School’s Curriculum

By Will Pook, Head of Computing

The challenge with Computing Education is that we don’t know what the technology will be when our children leave formal education in a decade’s time. Our pupils will be going into jobs that do not, at the moment, exist and they will be using technology that is yet to be invented.

What we do know is that almost all roles will use technology, and knowing how this technology works will be essential.  Key to their success will be an understanding of Computational Thinking and having a life-long interest in Computing. 

The Raspberry Pi Foundation explains that computational thinking is solving problems by breaking a problem into its individual parts and building an algorithm to solve that problem.  This is the part of Computer Science where we encourage children to be creative.

To develop computational thinking, we are making regular use of physical computing.  I believe this means they can see the results of their efforts in tangible, rather than abstract form.  Key to our curriculum, the children are using Spheros, a spherical robot programmed using a block-based programming language on iPads. Spheros programmable robot used by computing department at Belhaven Hill School

Virtual schooling demonstrates the importance of engagement. Using Spheros robots tends to be well received by prep school children, creating a real buzz about Computer Science with pupils keen and motivated to learn more, absorbing computer skills like sponges!

This most recent lockdown has accelerated the implementation of the school’s Computer Science plans – the younger children have had the Spheros sent home to them, and we have had some lovely videos back from parents who are glad that there is something constructive to do in the children’s down-time at home.

Younger children learning to programme the Spheros robot using iPads at Belhaven Hill SchoolYounger children at Belhaven Hill School learn to programme using iPads during a computer lesson

Older children have been using Computer Aided Design (CAD) software at home. Their designs are then printed on the school’s new 3D printer.  Encouraging engagement and discovery, we plan to develop a “Makerspace” which will allow children to solve problems by combining the programming of micro-computers like the Micro:bit or a Raspberry Pi to build physical objects for them to control. 

My dream is to be able to walk into the Makerspace during free time – be that on a Saturday afternoon after matches or a 40-minute morning break – and see children working on a multitude of projects.

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Our thanks to School House Magazine for publishing this article in their Spring/Summer edition.