How might KUBO be used to create a more STEAM oriented approach to learning

Rikke Bergreen Paaskesen,
Curriculum specialist and Educational advisor
Odense, Denmark

KUBO teaches coding to children in a tangible and intuitive way. But it does more than that. It offers lots of open-ended possibilities, involving imagination and creative storytelling while learning to code.

Making use of robots in education is typically associated with core STEM subjects,  but there are endless academic possibilities implementing KUBO in humanities subjects too.

STEAM is an approach that considers an element of Art along with science, technology, engineering, and math. 

Using the art element, teachers are able to appeal to a wider range of learners, while using technology. Some students like to cultivate, draw, create, and develop elements of a story. Others like to practice math, directions, and calculations while navigating or controlling a device. Combining these approaches makes STEAM.

Most of today’s children are likely to interact with robots in their future workplace in what we call a co-bot way; working and collaborating with robots. It is therefore vital that we teach children to consider how that can happen effectively. But even more importantly, we must nurture, practice, and develop skills that robots, as machines, are not capable of. Among other things, this means being creative;  able to think innovatively and independently.

KUBO accommodates both STEM and STEAM activities. Students learn basic code literacy and terminology when creating a route, a function, and a subroutine, or when making use of loops in their functions. Students learn to analyze, make predictions,  read coordinates, and solve problems when the coding doesn’t go as expected. They have to debug to find a better solution, a better program, or a sequence of code.

For example, the language- or the history teacher can implement storytelling while practicing tinkering activities by making use of the blank map included in the KUBO Coding sets. Storytelling can be extended by having students tinker with small cardboard boxes, pipe cleaners, tin foil, play dough, etc., creating physical surroundings to support their stories. Stories can range from sci-fi to fairytales or can be more factual, such as depicting a scene from a history book. In each of these scenarios, KUBO can act out a specific character while navigating the map or can be given specific tasks along the way.

The teacher provides ideas for a context and then acts as a facilitator, partly by questioning, partly by informing and giving hints for a scenario or a universe, and then allowing students to create their own content while coding KUBO to fulfill its mission. The teacher can add new dimensions by making use of objects, or symbols, or by presenting barriers or “bugs” on the map.

Using storytelling while learning how to control technology helps students develop a sense of agency and ownership of the content as they decide where, how, and why the robot should be coded to act out a certain behavior or to drive to a specific destination to solve a task.

Using KUBO in a daily teaching schedule shouldn’t be seen as an add-on to the existing curriculum.

For more ideas have a look at School Portal which includes suggestions for interdisciplinary learning. For example:

  • From lesson plan 1, Math/Science: “Have students create two different routes on the activity map. Then,have students compare the distance of the two different routes. They must use the terms more than or less than to compare the number of quadrants in the routes”.
  • From lesson plan 2, Social Studies: “Teach students about local, state, and national government and voting in elections for those levels of government. Then, have students create a function for KUBO to get from the bus to the voting station to  vote for a mayor in the local government’s election҇”.
  • From lesson plan 4, Language (ELA): “Show examples of travel logs, journals, and diaries to students. Then, have students create a travel log in which they can write or draw about KUBO’s daily adventures while visiting friends across the United States” (or whatever country suits the context).

For project work, there are also endless opportunities to experiment with interdisciplinary learning. For example, students could be learning about the environment and how robots can be coded to help clean streets, oceans, and nature; or exploring the history of technology, transportation, and robots as companions in the care system. In cross-cultural and project-oriented learning contexts it makes sense to make teaching content real-world oriented, to learn about the influence of societal development and technology in our everyday life.