This year, students at Whitlow Elementary School literally jumped into learning to code with an enthusiasm usually reserved for recess. That’s because Mrs. Kathy Brott, the robotics teacher, and Mr. Alex Evans, the PE teacher, banded together to introduce Unruly Splats, a STEM education tool that helps schools combine coding and active play in any classroom.
Whitlow Elementary’s 4th and 5th graders are the first in the Forsyth County School District to use Unruly Splats, which are programmable floor buttons that students stomp on to light up, make sounds, and collect points. Using an iPad or Chromebook, students can code them to create games like relay races and whack-a-mole that promote movement and collaboration.
“Kids love building games of any kind, so with Unruly Splats, we can take engagement with coding education to a whole new level,” said Mrs. Brott. “Students start to see that there’s STEM in everything we do, especially in PE.”
In order to bring Unruly Splats into Whitlow Elementary, Mrs. Brott and Mr. Evans worked together with the school’s STEM coach to apply for a grant with the Forsyth County Education Foundation.
“For me as a PE teacher, coding is a foreign language, so the collaboration with Mrs. Brott helps me and also models teamwork for the students,” said Mr. Evans. “It’s invigorating to get 60 or 70 kids in the gym playing games, coding, and problem-solving together.”
This spring, Mrs. Brott and Mr. Evans combined their classes to build and play a game they called Mission Impossible that involved moving around the gym with cones and noodles without touching the floor. The teachers plan to continue using Unruly Splats to inspire play and exploration in the form of building their own games.
Whitlow Elementary’s dual STEM certification status means that the school is no stranger to cross-curricular STEM education. The school has a Georgia State STEM Certification and was also the first elementary school in the state to earn the internationally recognized Cognia STEM Certification.
“The combination of PE and coding is just one example of how our teachers creatively insert STEM concepts every day, in every subject,” said Dr. Lynne Castleberry, the founding principal at Whitlow Elementary. “When we started our STEM journey, we saw an overall improvement in test scores for students who were underperformers in the past. That’s because prioritizing STEM means prioritizing student-driven instruction and hands-on, collaborative learning.”
Unruly Splats help schools fulfill a range of high priority objectives including:
- Hands-on teacher training and support: School memberships come with lesson plans developed by teachers and professional development to ensure teachers are empowered to incorporate STEM into their classrooms.
- Cross-curricular coding: Unruly Splats allow teachers to incorporate coding into any subject, including PE, general education, science, and even music!
- Recess-like play combined with STEM: The games kids play with Unruly Splats encourage physical movement, helping to combat a decades long drop in active play for children.
“Computer science education is often intimidating and sedentary. We want to flip those stereotypes on their head and inspire kids to try coding who didn’t think it was for them,” said Bryanne Leeming, Founder and CEO of Unruly Studios, the maker of Unruly Splats.
To learn more, visit www.unrulysplats.com.