Kindergarten children in Ungheni, Moldova are now able to build and program robots
November 22, 2023
Kindergarten “Steluța” is one of seven preschool institutions in Ungheni that has been equipped with tablets, LEGO® sets, computers, interactive whiteboards and projectors with which more than 2,000 children can develop their digital skills and competencies. Robotics lessons, part of digital education, kicked off in September 2023 and have quickly become a favourite with children.
The carousel and other designs
Seated at their desks, with a tablet and a LEGO® Education SPIKE™ Essential set in front of them, the children of the Ungheni kindergarten “Steluța” begin their robotics lesson.
Under the guidance of three teachers, or robotics trainers, the little ones gather every two weeks in a well-equipped room to learn how to build and program robots.
“The robots are not just assembled; they also do other things. They move, they light up—this is very impressive for children and motivates them to do robotics,” explains Maxim Kishko, one of the robotics trainers.
Maxim Kishko, along with two other fellow educators, supervises and instructs children in robot programming. “First we get the children interested, create a plot and get them in the mood, and then the actual programming begins. We try to integrate robotics topics with the topics that children study in classes so that there is continuity,” says robotics trainer Aliona Grushko.
“Today we're going to program a carousel,” say the educators to the class, who are ready to start assembling the parts.
The carousel is one of the many designs that children can assemble with the available sets. They can also assemble helicopters, ferries and cars.
“The Lego building ideas are very diverse, and programming is easy, even though at first glance it may seem complicated. First, we taught the children how to use digital devices: how to turn on the tablet, how to open an app, how to turn off the tablet,” adds Aliona Grushko.
Educators become robotics trainers
Robotics classes started in Ungheni kindergartens, preceded by a series of trainings for educators. Lucia Gavriliuc, director of the kindergarten “Steluța”, notes that three staff members of the kindergarten have been trained to conduct robotics classes in the preparatory groups.
“We realise that robotics is a field that can provide children with a bright future.
The earlier children start, the more interesting it is for them because we use age-appropriate techniques. We encourage creativity and support the development of skills in creating games, building robots, and using the Internet and computers in everyday life,” emphasizes Lucia Gavriliuc.
Through May - June and September this year, 19 educators from seven kindergartens in Ungheni participated in a robotics training program. During the sessions, participants explored several interactive tablet games and learned how to use LEGO® sets.
Robotics stimulates creativity and develops fine motor skills
Ana Melnic has two children, and her six-year-old daughter Alexandra attends robotics classes.
“I was sceptical at first and didn't expect the lessons to be like this,” Ana says.
But within a few months of starting the classes, Ana began to notice positive changes in Alexandra’s behaviour and development.
“Alexandra has become much more attentive, inquisitive, and has learned how to learn through play. Lego has become her favourite toy even at home.”
Irina Cojocaru is a robotics trainer at the kindergarten “Steluța” and Victoria's mother, her daughter, also attends robotics classes.
“As a parent, I can tell you that the kids really enjoy robotics. My daughter is delighted. She counts the days and asks when the next robotics class will be. At home, she shares with me what she built that day and how she did it,” says Irina Cojocaru.
While previously the children were used to traditional constructors like LEGO® that they assembled at home, without motors and without programming, within a few months they had mastered the basics of robotics and learned additional skills.
“These classes develop children's creativity and fine motor skills, as the LEGO® set contains very small parts, which trains their attention and memory, because at the end the robot will have to be disassembled,” notes Maxim Kishko.
The educators also note that robotics makes children more responsible, persistent, attentive, and fosters the desire to work in groups.
In 2022-2023, through the “EU4Moldova: Focal Regions” Programme, funded by the EU and implemented by UNDP and UNICEF, kindergartens in Ungheni and Cahul municipalities were equipped with interactive whiteboards, projectors, computers, colour printers, tablets and LEGO® Education SPIKE™ Essential sets worth more than €146,000.