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Creating Real World Solutions With The Micro:bit

microbit sleeve preview image

The BBC Micro:bit is a favourite Digital Technologies tool of mine that allows our students to design solutions to problems, create games, make music and respond to the surrounding environment.

The small handheld micro-controller can be coded by students using Block Code, Python, Javascript or Scratch 3.0, making it a versatile tool that can be adapted for students in primary and secondary classrooms.

The features of the Micro:bit are;

  • USB connector: Connects to a computer for power and to load programs onto the Micro:bit
  • 25 LED lights: Can be individually programmed to show shapes, text or numbers
  • 2 buttons (A and B): Programmable input buttons
  • Light sensor: The LEDs on the Micro:bit can also act as a light sensor to detect ambient light
  • Edge Connector: 25 external connectors, called Pins, on the edge of the Micro:bit allow you to connect to other input and output electronic hardware, including LEDs, motors and sensors
  • Battery socket: Power the Micro:bit using batteries
  • Reset button: Restarts the Micro:bit
  • Radio: Communicates with other Micro:bits
  • Bluetooth antenna: Wirelessly sends and receives signals to Bluetooth enabled PCs, smartphones, or tablets
  • Processor: Where the program is stored and executed
  • Compass: Detects the direction (north, south, east, west) the Micro:bit is facing
  • Accelerometer: Detects if the Micro:bit is being moved, tilted, shaken or in free-fall and at what acceleration
  • Temperature sensor: Detects the current temperature of the Micro:bit in degrees Celsius

microbit stepcounter

Introduction to the Micro:bit

The Makecode platform, developed by Microsoft, allows students to code using Block Code and Javascript. It has a great range of project tutorials for students to work through to develop their understanding of, and familiarity with, the Micro:bit.

Website: https://makecode.microbit.org/

My favourite tutorials:

Rock, Paper, Scissors
Name tag
Step counter

Step Counter

microbit stepcounter code blocks

Extension: Have students personalise and/or make enhancements to the code.

Step counter – Enhanced with a message displayed on the Micro:bit when the user reaches 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 steps.

microbit stepcounter blocks

Once students have developed a basic understanding of how the Micro:bit works, they can be given a range of projects or challenges to solve individually or in small groups. These challenges will allow students to use their imagination and creativity to design their end product.

BOSON – Starter Kit for Micro:bit

microbit in box

Micro:bit is a simple micro-controller that can be enhanced with a range of add-on resources to allow students to achieve even more. The Boson Kit comes packed with easy-to-attach modular blocks to further empower student creativity and projects.

The Boson Kit features:

  • Micro:bit expansion board
  • Push button
  • Motion sensor
  • Rotation sensor
  • Sound sensor
  • LED light
  • Mini fan
  • LED strip
  • Mini servo

microbit fan sensor with button and childs hand
Incorporating the features of the Boson Kit into their designs allows students the opportunity to create solutions that can respond to a variety of inputs or sensors and respond or act with a desired output.

microbit sensor circuit setup

Micro:bit Pets

Students create their own Micro:bit Pet. The pet must react to different Micro:bit movements by using the LEDs and sounds to showcase the pet’s emotions. Students use art and craft materials to design and create their pet, integrating the Micro:bit to act as their pet’s face.

microbit pet green, faeturing laptop in background

microbit pet pink on classrom desk

 

microbit pet orange on classroom desk

 

microbit pet yellow with laptop in backgroundMaterials:

 

UN Sustainable Goals

There are a total of 17 goals that make up the UN Sustainable Goals. I focus on two or three that connect to the current learning themes taking place in our classroom when undertaking this project. This provides students with a real-life scenario to develop a solution using the Micro:bit.

UN Sustainable goals vector table

Students need to apply their content knowledge from our units of work in class, to generate ideas, code a solution and create a prototype.

Examples created by students aged 11-13 years old.

Automated Street Lights
Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy
As pedestrians walk on the footpath at night, the light above sensors their presence and switches on. This provides light where it is needed, saving energy as they are not on all night long.

microbit automated street lights

 

Class Countdown
Goal 4 – Quality Education
This device will be installed in every classroom and every student wears a synced watch. As students enter the classroom they press button A to automatically mark the roll. If students require teacher assistance, they press button B on their watch. If the teacher wants all students’ attention on the floor, they get a countdown timer to appear on the LED screen of their watch. This was designed to save time in the classroom so teachers and students can work more efficiently.

microbit class countdown

 

Tree Cut Down Warning System
Goal 13 – Climate Action
Goal 15 – Life On Land
Trees in forests have sensors attached. When a tree is cut down it notifies the rangers, so they can then locate where the tree is and stop deforestation before it occurs.

microbit tree cut down warning system

 

Turtle to Clean the Ocean
Goal 14 – Life Below Water
The turtle swims in the ocean collecting rubbish. It was designed to appear like other animals in the ocean so as not to scare others.

microbit turtle to clean ocean

 

Wellbeing Watch
Goal 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing
This wellbeing watch helps fight mental health issues. When button A is pressed, either a joke, funny emoji or funny sound will play at random to cheer the person up. When button B is pressed, it notifies authorities of the location and that this person is in trouble and needs urgent attention.

microbit wellbeing watch

 

The Micro:bit and Boson Kit allow students to work through the design process to prototype and solve real-life problems. These resources give students the creative freedom to explore and generate ideas through hands-on learning experiences. How are you using these tools in your classroom?

Featured Product:

Boson Start Kit for Micro:Bit & MicroBit

 

How do you use Micro:bit in your classroom? We would love to hear from you!

About the author

Eleni Kyritsis is an award winning Year 3 teacher and Leader of Curriculum and innovation from Melbourne, Australia. Eleni facilitates professional learning workshops around the world that focus on unleashing creativity and curiosity in classrooms. You can contact her at elenikyritis.com and @misskyritsis

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How To Incorporate Natural Resources Into The Classroom – Part Two

Small world creation built with natural tree block featuring chairs, tables and kitchen layout

There are so many ways nature can be brought into the classroom as part of children’s learning, and I shared lots of ideas in Part One of How to incorporate Natural Resources Into The Classroom  Many of you really enjoyed the simple and effective ways I have managed to bring bits of nature into my classroom, which inspired me to share more of these ideas. Read on to find out how I incorporate more natural resources in the classroom.

Nature patterns

Flower sorting tray with natural resources used to create patterns

Can you create a pattern? One of my favourite times to incorporate natural items is during maths. Natural items extend themselves beautifully to teaching mathematical concepts, especially through hands-on learning. Whenever I am teaching my students about repeating patterns, I love presenting them with natural items for them to explore patterning with. In this activity, students were free to use the natural materials to create and label their own patterns.

Featured Products:
Flower Sorting Tray
Natural Resources Kit

Can you make a leaf letter?

Letters on coloured leaves reflecting on 3 way mirrors

Leaves are just one of the most amazing natural resources to use in teaching and learning because they’re free, readily available and there are a plethora of ways they can be used! A few years ago, I had this learning space set up in my kindergarten classroom as an opportunity for literacy development. We read the book ‘We’re going on a leaf hunt’ and went on our own leaf hunt in the playground to collect the leaves we needed for this learning space. When children engaged with this stimulus, they created letters using the leaves and developed letter recognition skills and their understanding of letter formation.

Featured Products:
Nesting Wooden Trays – Set of 3
Three Way Mirror

Using flowers

Flower petals sorted and organised by colours in flower sorting tray

Is it just me or does anyone else get really excited when they’re given flowers? And not just because flowers are amazing and incredibly thoughtful, but also because they can be used for activities once you’ve finished enjoying them! One of my favourite ways to use flowers in the classroom is for ‘potion making’. Simply provide an ‘invitation to create’ for your students with flowers, water, leaves, glitter, bowls, wooden spoons and jars and watch them create and explore. Other activities you can do with flowers include nature-cutting, colour matching, threading and flower pressing.

Featured Product:
Flower Sorting Tray

Counting with twigs

Numbers written on branch cuts with 8 twigs placed next to the number 8 on a branch cut

As I mentioned before, I love using natural resources during maths lessons, particularly when we are engaging in hands-on rotations. Counting using one to one correspondence, recognising numerals, and matching collections to numerals are all crucial mathematical skills that are taught in the early years. Students developed all of these skills as they engaged with this activity where they had to select and recognise a number and then make a matching collection to represent that number using twigs. The addition of the tongs enabled students to develop their fine motor skills also.

Featured Products:
Thick twigs
Tweezers
Natural Wooden Bowls
Hessian Sheets Natural
Matching Wooden Number Discs

Transient art with nature

A face created using twigs, leaves and stones

Have you heard of the term ‘transient art’? Basically, it’s just a fancy term for moveable art – art that is not ‘fixed’. Transient art is continuously evolving and the focus is on the process, not the final product. When children engage in transient art experiences, they are able to manipulate, explore and experiment with materials and let their creativity and imaginations run wild.

An animal face created using twigs, leaves and stones Natural resources are perfect for transient artworks because of their open-ended nature. Items that I like using in transient art include leaves, pebbles, gemstones, small pinecones, circle branch cuts, rocks, small twigs, gumnuts and flowers. In this particular transient art experience, my students created artworks inside a frame using nothing but sticks, rocks and leaves. I was amazed at their creativity!

Natural Tree Blocks

Natural tree block house with multiple levels featuring chairs, tables and kitchen layout

These Natural Tree Blocks are my absolute favourite construction resource that encourages children to design, create and build. The blocks are absolutely stunning and are perfect if you’re looking for a straightforward way to integrate more natural items into your classroom.

Natural tree block farm world featuring horses

We use these blocks a lot for both construction activities and in small world set-ups. We have even used them for building on our light-box panel! My students and I particularly enjoy using these blocks in small world play set-ups because their natural look makes the play space more realistic, especially once you add a couple of mossy stones, branch cuts and rocks!

Natural tree blocks used to create a fairy tale world

Featured Products:

Wooden Tree Blocks
Bendable Wooden Family
Natural Wooden Living Room
Natural Wood Kitchen
Natural Wood Bedroom
Explore and Discover Light Panel
Wooden Fairytale Figures
Mossy stones – Set of 8
Branch Cuts Circles
Active World Tray

Leaf crowns

Leaves stuck to contact paper to create a crown

Have you ever used contact paper to create crowns before? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it! It was an activity I learnt at university and I have used it many times in my teaching career because it’s such an easy (and mess free!) way to make crowns. We made these ‘leaf crowns’ when I taught kindergarten several years ago. Simply stick your leaves and any other collage items you want to the contact paper, fold together, place around your head and voila! Your crown is ready to go!

Creating small worlds

Small world creation built with natural tree block featuring chairs, tables and kitchen layout

One of the most common ways I incorporate natural items into my classroom is through small world set-ups. Whether it be presenting resources as an ‘invitation to create’ or setting up a small world play tray, I always include natural resources to make it ‘life like’.

Natural resources and figurines sorted and organised in storage baskets

Can you imagine a jungle without trees, leaves and rocks? …Exactly! So by adding these natural pieces, the play space ‘comes to life’ and children are able to use these items in their play. My favourite natural resources to use in small worlds are; rocks, twigs, leaves, branch cut circles for stepping stones, sticks and pine cones. It is always interesting to see how children use these items creatively during their play.

Natural resources used to create a small world replicating a jungle featuring rocks, twigs, leaves, branch cut circles for stepping stones, sticks and pine cones

Featured Products:
Flower Sorting Tray
Natural Resources Kit
Wooden Australian Trees
Branch Cuts Circles
Bendable Wooden Family
Natural Wooden Living Room
Natural Wood Kitchen
Natural Wood Bedroom
Natural Wood Tunnel
Natural Wood Slices – Set of 3

Counting with Bud Cones

Tweezers being used to place bud cones in sorting box

How sweet are these mini Bud Cones? I fell in love with them the first time I saw them and have been using them in my classroom ever since. A few years ago, I set up this really simple numeracy activity using these bud cones to encourage children to develop their one to one correspondence, counting skills and numeral recognition. In this activity, children were encouraged to make a matching collection using Bud Cones to represent each number. The addition of tweezers enabled children to develop their fine motor skills also.

MTA has lots of different types of sorting trays  that could also be used…

Featured Products:
Bud Cones
Nesting Wooden Trays – Set of 3
Tweezers
Active World Tray

What is your favourite natural resource to use in the classroom? We’d love to hear from you!

ABOUT HEIDI:
Heidi Overbye from Learning Through Play is a Brisbane based, Early Years Teacher who currently teaches Prep, the first year of formal schooling in Queensland. Heidi is an advocate for play-based, hands-on learning experiences and creating stimulating and creative learning spaces. Heidi shares what happens in her classroom daily on her Instagram page, Learning Through Play. See @learning.through.play for a huge range of activities, play spaces and lesson ideas.

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