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John Jay students build coding, leadership skills in Lego Explore Club

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A group of John Jay Elementary students know just where to go for a lesson in coding each week. Gears, lights, blocks, and teamwork fill the learning resource center every Tuesday for a meeting of Lego Explore Club. 

The after school program offers lessons in building and coding to 24 students ranging from second to fifth grade. Individual teams receive instructions on how to craft a new structure, then use that knowledge in conjunction with a coding program to install lights, sounds, or activate motors. 

“We have had a lot of awesome builds. For example, the whole group was able to create a sorting center that required three coding programs alone to move packages from one spot to another based on color,” said Jason Boudreau, fourth grade teacher at John Jay. “The students used a light camera to detect what color the package was and it turned on the sort feature to place the package in the right spot. This helped the students see how somewhere like Amazon is able to sort packages quickly.

Jason has captained a Lego Club for years with his colleague, Beth Carroll, but was able to acquire new kits this year that offered more opportunities to program. The result has been an enthusiastic group and moments of awe as each student sees what others have created.

“The best is seeing the students get the code to work. When they make their build function the way they want to, the celebrations are awesome!”

Students echo their favorite aspects of the course are seeing their creations come to life and meeting new people. While they brainstorm the best route for their design, they are also getting a lesson in partnerships. Building leadership skills is at the heart of the program, as groups are made up of students from different grades, with every session including discussions of how students can most effectively work together. 

“We talk with the whole group about what it takes to be a leader and a team member,” said Boudreau. “We have seen many students take to being natural leaders. They help get set up in the beginning and discuss what they should accomplish that day. They demonstrate for the younger students, set an example, then help them complete that task.”

The group is in the midst of 12 sessions for the year and plan to present their work to the board of education in April. 

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