PAST TEACHING TRAILBLAZERS

Teaching Trailblazers are innovative early childhood educators who are using robotics in interesting ways with young children.

Who is our Trailblazer?


Cate Heroman


Education Chair of Knock Knock Children’s Museum, Knock Knock Maker Shop, Baton Rouge, LA

Why our trailblazer?

After working in the field of early childhood education for more than 35 years as a teacher, administrator, trainer, and author of curriculum and assessment materials, Cate retired from full-time employment in 2012. Cate began volunteering as Education Chair of Knock Knock Children’s Museum in 2013 and serves on their Board of Directors. At this time, the museum is constructing a learning zone exhibit called, the Knock Knock Maker Shop. This learning zone will be a place where children can put things together, take things apart, invent, problem solve and create. It will be a STEM/STEAM-rich environment for making, tinkering and design engineering to work with KIBO robotics.

Why KIBO?

Cate expressed that the years of solid research behind KIBO’s development as well as a clear understanding by the creators of how children ages 4-7 develop and learn appealed to her when using KIBO. Introducing the commands for KIBO through playful games like KIBO Says, an adaptation of Simon Says, is an effective strategy for helping young children use their bodies to learn even before they are introduced to the robot. KIBO is a good precursor for other types of robotics that require more abstract thinking when using a familiar material like wooden blocks to put commands together. The fact that it doesn’t require a computer or a plug to operate was particularly appealing to Cate. Finally, the ability to use the arts to decorate KIBO turns this STEM experience into a holistic STEAM one, as well!

What was the process like for integrating robotics curriculum into the museum?

The Knock Knock Children’s Museum included KIBO at the Baton Rouge Mini Maker Faire. Curious to see how intuitive the KIBO robotics would be for participants of all ages, Cate let the participants play with the KIBO robots at the Mini Maker Faire. After a brief introduction, children quickly put simple programs together and were delighted to see KIBO follow their directions when they tested it out. They then wanted to use all the blocks and repeats to make a more complex program. Children who were total strangers worked together as they planned, solved problems, took turns, shared ideas and created programs for KIBO. After they figured out how to program KIBO, many of them began demonstrating and coaching others! Additionally, tech-savvy parents who attended the maker faire commented, “Hey! That’s coding! How amazing!”

Great job, Cate! We cannot wait to see how you use KIBO in the future!

Who is our Trailblazer?


Debbie Rogers


Director of Instructional Digital Design, Riverside Presbyterian Day School (RPDS), Jacksonville, FL

Tell us more!

Debbie received her B.A. from the University of Florida and then continued on to receive her teaching certificate from Florida State College. She has been working at RPDS for over 15 years and has been the Director of Instructional Digital Design since 2013.

Why our Trailblazer?

Debbie has been introducing a plethora of new technologies to her students at RPDS! Working with pre-kindergarten through third graders, she has been teaching programming, robotics, computational thinking, and problem solving skills, using both onscreen and tangible technologies. Her students are using tools such as ScratchJr, Code.org, Kodable.com, and the KIBO robotics kit. One of Debbie’s favorite things about using robotics with young children is their affinity for self-directed learning regardless of pre-existing literacy skills. She says that her students “are fully engaged and learning much more than robotics. They are learning how to be teachers, partners, problem solvers, learners, and creative contributors!” In the future, Debbie would like to incorporate storytelling with digital/robotic tools like KIBO, as well as begin introducing students to some of the robotics kits designed for a slightly older age group. Awesome job, Debbie!

Who are our Trailblazers?


28 students from Tufts University

Tell us more!

This Teaching Trailblazer is unique because it features 28 students from Tufts University, ranging from first year students to those in a Master’s program. These students are studying a variety of subjects, from engineering and computer science all the way to psychology, child development, and Italian studies.

Why our Trailblazer?

During the Spring of 2015, these 28 students taught a KIBO robotics curriculum to 330 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students at two Rhode Island public schools. As part of a course at Tufts University entitled “Teaching Robotics at an Urban School,” Tufts students learned about using technology such as the KIBO robotics kit in early childhood classrooms. Then, during their school vacation, they spent 6 full days in twenty pre-K and kindergarten classrooms. During their time at the school, Tufts students taught about the Engineering Design Process, the parts of the KIBO robot, and even about cultural dances from around the world. On the last day, each classroom programed a robot to dance one of the dances that they had learned about. They also used arts and crafts to decorate their robots and create “scenery.” Overall, the Tufts students, classroom teachers, and pre-K and kindergarten students had a lot of fun learning about engineering and robotics. Way to go, Tufts students!

Who is our Trailblazer?


Marisa Garcia


Kindergarten Teacher, East Boston Early Education Center (EEC)


Tell us more!

Marisa studied Elementary Education at Wheelock College and continued studying at the Boston Teacher Residency. She has taught Kindergarten for two years.

Why our Trailblazer?

Marisa just completed a robotics unit with her kindergarten students based on the well-known book Where the Wild Things Are . Combining literacy, fundamental programming and engineering concepts, and the arts, students decorated their KIBO robots and then programmed them to re-enact the “wild rumpus.” Additionally, students created murals to set the scene for the story. What a fun activity! Marisa loves that through robotics, her students were naturally learning “big life concepts” such as patience, trying again, delegating roles, and sharing. She is excited to continue working with KIBO during her next science unit, where students will program their robots to navigate “box cities” made from cardboard and paper. We can’t wait to see what Marisa and her students create next!

Who is our Trailblazer?


Claire Caine


Director of Academic Technology, Jewish Community Day School, JCDS


Tell us more!

Claire received her undergraduate degree in Decision Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania and then continued on for her MBA at the Wharton School and her MSE at the Moore School of Engineering. She has been working at JCDS for the past seven years.

Why our Trailblazer?

Claire has been an avid user of robotics in early childhood classrooms over the past four years at JCDS. From LEGO® WeDo to the new KIBO robot, Claire has taught with so many different robotics kits. She recently finished teaching an engineering class to kindergarten students, where they learned about sturdy building techniques, simple machines, electric circuits, wind and water power, and programming. For their final projects, students decorated and then programmed their KIBO robots to act out one of the customs for the Jewish holiday of Tu’Bishvat. Claire loved seeing how quickly students caught on with the programming, as well as how creative they were with decorating their robots. We can’t wait to see what Claire does next with her students!

Who is our Trailblazer?


Ilana Picker


Teacher and Occupational Therapist, Shefa School


Tell us more!

Ilana has been a practicing OT for 17 years in a variety of settings such as psychiatric hospitals, elementary and high schools, and early intervention programs. She studied to become a high school teacher at a university in South Africa but soon realized her combined interest in children and medicine; Ilana returned to school to receive her OT degree. In September 2014, she began working at the Shefa School as both a teacher and OT, and has been teaching a robotics elective for students.

Why our Trailblazer?

Ilana is innovative in her approach of teaching robotics to her students with language-based disabilities. She integrated sensory strategies and helps her students work on motor skills such as balance while teaching the concepts of engineering and programming. She also encourages teamwork between students through her use of games. Ilana’s students have participated in various activities so far such as building sturdy structures out of recycled materials, programming each other to learn about the different commands that a robot can perform, and learning about sensors through blindfolding and guiding each other around the room. Ilana has been extremely creative in engaging her students and teaching them robotics and engineering using low-tech materials! She will be receiving the new KIBO robotics kit for her classroom in the next few months and is excited for her students to apply what they have learned so far.

Who is our Trailblazer?


Brenda Matthis


Associate Professor in the Educational Technology Program, Lesley University


Check out her ECRN profile!

Tell us more!

A software designer for 19 years, Dr. Matthis received her master and doctorate degrees in education from Harvard University, focusing on the social construction of educational software. In 2005-2006, Dr. Matthis lived in Japan as a Fulbright scholar, lecturing on special education in U.S. and Universal Design for Learning (UDL); and researching the use of technology with undergraduate, graduate, and in-service teachers. In 2010, Dr. Matthis launched the 21st Century Micro-Loan Technology Kit for Teachers in Title I Schools Project. The first two grantees will be chosen in December. Dr. Matthis's latest research is the use of iPads for students with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).


Why our Trailblazer?

Brenda is an active member of the Educational Technology community. Her research in this field has led her around the world. Her enthusiasm shines through her work. Listen to her speak at Learning Assistance Association of New England in 2012. Brenda is constantly interacting with how to integrate STEM in the classroom. She prioritizes sharing and exploring different perspectives about emerging educational technologies in her classes at Lesley. Want to hear more from our trailblazer? Read this blog post Brenda wrote if you have a moment to learn about Disrupting the STEM Education Status Quo. Brenda, we cannot wait to watch as you continue to explore this field and we look forward to you completing your book Mogu Mogu Mothers of Kitakyushu about your research in Japan.

Who is our Trailblazer?


Diana Traylor


Lower Elementary School Teacher, Lexington Montessori School


Check out her ECRN profile!

Tell us more!

Diana received her Bachelors of Arts in Art History from Oberlin College and then continued on to obtain her American Montessori Society 6-9 training through the Center for Montessori Education. After completing her internship at the Lexington Montessori School, she stayed on to become a permanent teacher there. She currently teaches first through third grade students.

Why our Trailblazer?

Diana uses robotics in an innovative way to teach her students about Ancient Greece! She had been teaching these topics for many years in her classroom, but after attending a professional development workshop, decided to try out a new approach. Using the LEGO ® WeDo kit !, Diana created a new curriculum that integrates fundamental engineering and programming concepts with games, stories, and art projects to learn about Greek history and simple machines. As a final project, her students created robotic playground structures. Check out !, some of the projects made by her students! Diana is a great example about how teachers can use robotics as a new way to teach a topic already being discussed in the classroom!

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