Middle School Tech Ninjas Mentor 4th-graders

Freya Rolfs helping a group of 4th graders with the Dash bots.

Tech Ninja Freya Rolfs helps a group of 4th graders play soccer with Dash bots using iPads.

Technology Ninjas from Orchard and Pioneer Middle school have been deploying their super ninja skills in Sarah Smellers’ 4th-grade class at Washington Elementary over the last three weeks. They started with “unplugged” coding activities without devices to help the 4th-graders exercise their collaboration, computational thinking and communication skills. The three-week ninja training culminated with a fun, hands-on coding activity using Light Bot on the iPads, driving Sphero bots through stacks of library books and navigating Dash bots in a soccer game. 

This is the second year the middle school ninjas have done tech teaching at the elementary level. A vital aspect of the Tech Ninja program is developing leadership and presentation skills. “We hope that the Ninja’s are getting that from this opportunity as well as being role models for the 4th-graders– In fact, several of them are former Washington students,” explained Instructional Technology Facilitator Ray Birks.

“The Tech Ninjas really like to be seen as the ‘experts’ and are having fun going around to all the different groups helping,” said Birks. “This is a great experience for them.” The interaction between the two groups has the potential to cultivate future ninjas too. “I love that my kids are getting to see a possibility of what’s ahead for them in Middle School,” said Smeller. “For some that aren’t necessarily really strong in other areas, the Ninja Program could be something that they could really thrive in.” 

The idea for the younger students is less about learning code and more about working together to solve problems. “With the unplugged activities the kids really have to use some brain power to achieve their goal, and so it’s less about learning to be a ‘coder’ and more about deloping those critical 21st Century skills,” Birks explained. Introducing younger students to coding gives them a glimpse of the future too. Many computer science jobs in Washington are going unfilled, and that gap only continues to widen. “The kids are not just consuming technology they are creating and using technology in the present so they can be well prepared for the future,” said Birks.  

8th-grade Tech Ninja Frey Rolfs was on hand helping put into action some of the unplugged skills she helped the 4th-graders learn in the classroom. Rolfs was in charge of the Dash Bot Soccer game. “This is just a lot of fun— I get to teach little kids, play around with robots and work with technology, she said. Freya hopes this experience will help the younger students realize that coding isn’t as hard as they might think. “When I was this age I thought that coding was really long, really hard and took a lot of work– I was wrong anyone at any age can do this.”

Watch the video to learn more about the middle school Tech Ninja Program.

See more photos from the training