King’s Academy, November 24, 2016 – The Middle School was overrun with noisy little monsters last week. The monsters in question, however, are ones that the school’s 65 seventh and eighth grade students built themselves, as part of an end-of-term project that taught them to code, program and design interactive toys.
The Middle School minimesters, which take place for three to four days at the end of each term, were inspired by King’s popular summer program, i2 camp, which blends science, technology, engineering and math in a way that offers both education and recreation for kids aged 11 to 14.
“Students approach summer camp with a lot of excitement. Why shouldn’t school be the same way?” said Dean of the Middle School Reem Abu Rahmeh. “So the idea of minimesters was born and we decided to expand on what we do in class. We used the i2 package of building an interactive monster, which is an inter-disciplinary project combining art, music, coding, math, science and engineering into one.”
To bring their interactive friendly monsters to life, students started by making a small electric circuit, and learned how to sew using fabric and conductive thread, before adding a light and switch, a battery holder, speakers and a micro-controller. They were taught the science behind how everything works, and learned to program in order to control the flashing lights and music speaker. As the small speakers play at a specific frequency, in order for the monsters to play music, the students had to learn the frequency of each note in the tune they chose, and then instructed the computer to play those frequencies at the right times. The students learned that computers are limited by the instructions they are programmed with, which helped them to write clear, simple instructions.
“It is really important for kids to learn to program, and this is one way to teach them,” said math teacher Nadim Sarhan. “It teaches students to think in a clear and systematic way, and helps with critical thinking and problem solving.”
“It starts off complicated but gets easier the more you do it,” said Raseel Haddadin ’21 who added that she enjoyed learning to write codes that control timing, patterns and lights.
“Coding was easy,” said Suzan Oudat ’22. “But if you miss one step you have to go back and check every step from that start to find where you went wrong. I’m surprised the teachers trusted us, because if you do it wrong it could set on fire!”
For four days the Middle Schoolers were all involved in the same big project, which took what they do in classes throughout the term to the next level. Traditional – and stressful – end-of-term exams were replaced with a tangible and much more rewarding project that replicates what happens in the real world in terms of merging disciplines, creating schedules that serve the project, and relying on discovery and self-teaching, mentoring and coaching to navigate the process.
The school’s first fall minimester culminated in the Monster Mash Showcase where students presented their creations to their parents and the rest of the school and explained the process of making the monsters, challenges that they faced and what they learned along the way.
“We received wonderful feedback from parents at the showcase,” said Abu Rahmeh. “They were all thoroughly impressed that their kids learned how to sew to create a toy that can be coded, and which demonstrated their coding abilities. They loved seeing their children so passionate and excited about something they created.”